Hampshire & Isle of Wight

Plan for Black Arrow rocket tribute on Isle of Wight launched

Plan for Black Arrow model Image copyright Richard Curtis
Image caption Space fan Richard Curtis has proposed building a full-sized replica of the Black Arrow rocket and gantry

An Isle of Wight space enthusiast has launched an effort to build a full sized replica of the UK's pioneering space rocket.

Black Arrow was tested near the Needles before it launched the Prospero satellite in 1971.

Richard Curtis from Binstead has submitted a plan to landowners the National Trust for a 40ft (12m) replica at its original High Down testing site.

The trust has said the plan posed "significant conservation problems".

Mr Curtis, who works in the construction industry, said it would celebrate the island's space heritage and boost local tourism.

'Missing piece'

He estimates the project to build a replica of the 40ft (12m) rocket and gantry would cost about £75,000, raised through sponsorship.

Mr Curtis said: "The proposal is really to add the missing piece from the jigsaw that would give visitors a sense of the size of the rockets that were tested there."

The old rocket testing site is located on chalk downland which is now a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

A National Trust spokesman said: "We would have concerns about compromising the wildness of the headland.

"There would also be significant conservation problems associated with this proposal given the hostile environment of the site."

Image copyright chris gunns
Image caption The rocket engine testing bay can still be seen on the Isle of Wight coast

The Isle of Wight's rockets

  • The Isle of Wight played a key role in both Britain's space and nuclear missile programme in the 1960 and 70s
  • The rocket test site at High Down was converted from an old gun emplacement, and was used to test liquid rocket fuel engines
  • 200 people were employed
  • A rocket called Black Knight was built to test how rockets behaved both in space and when they re-entered the atmosphere
  • Its successor, Black Arrow, launched the Prospero satellite into space in 1971 - the only British satellite successfully launched by a British rocket
  • Funding for the space project was withdrawn in favour of developing the supersonic plane Concorde