The British Space Program

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The British Space Program

The British Space Program was the first attempt at space travel by any country starting in 1933. Sir Arthur C. Clarke was a key figure. He was credited with originating a type of satellite known as geostationary, which was used for telecommunications. Soon after Britain’s initial space program started, it turned to military application of satellites because of World War II. It coerced captured scientist from Germany to divulge information regarding rockets. This collaboration produced missiles with the capacity to deploy from the air to surface, called Blue Steel. After the success of Operation Backfire, Britain moved headlong into work for rockets capable of reaching farther in to orbit.

The British Space Program has consistently been used for satellites and intelligence gathering. They sponsored the production of six satellites in a program known as Ariel from 1962 to 1979. Because there is no true space program infrastructure the satellites were launched using the United States program NASA or National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Between 1969 until 2012, the British space program continued its intelligence work with a new program called Skynet. The information gathered was coordinated with NATO or North Atlantic Treaty Organization, United Kingdom Ministry of Defense and the British Armed Forces. The next leg of the program dubbed Zircon was scuttled due to cost by British Chancellor Nigel Lawson in 1987. Throughout the modern day, the British Space Program relied heavily on the United States program for intelligence with the partnership of the NSA or National Security Agency.

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The program has had its share of space vehicles, specifically from the period of 1950 to the mid eighties. They consisted of the rockets, Blue Streak, Black Knight and Black Arrow. The intended use was to haul nuclear warheads. During this timeframe tests were carried out in various locations such as the RAF Spadeadam, Isle of Wright and Woomera located in southern Australia. Since funding had always been the impediment for the program, it was not able to reach a status outside of satellites and nuclear warhead rockets until 1982.

Britain provided funds for HOTOL or Horizontal Take-Off and Landing as an attempt to recycle the previous spacecrafts developed by Alan Bond. However, once again the government cut the funding. The government of the United Kingdom made another run at a space program with the creation of BNSC or British National Space Centre in 1985. Its work culminated with the Beagle 2 probe, which was a component in the planet Mars study. Unfortunately, the results were abysmal due to the probe crashing on the planet and presenting as unusable.

The British Space Program has a mere 8.1% budget as part of a contribution to the European Space Agency Budget. There has never been a real astronaut program with only seven individuals to ever have this distinction including Helen Sharman, Michael Foale, Piers Sellers, Nicholas Patrick, Gregory H. Johnson and Richard Garriott. All have dual citizenship in other countries except Helen Sharman, who is the first Brit in space with a mission on a Russian voyage in 1991. The British Space Program has relinquished its space travel endeavor to the ESA or European Space Agency and private sector for advancement.

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