Brancaster surveyed as space age rocket launching site

Map Image copyright Royal Aircraft Establishment
Image caption As well as Brancaster, other parts of the country were considered as potential rocket launch sites

A popular tourist destination in north Norfolk was surveyed 50 years ago as a potential rocket launching site, declassified documents show.

Royal Aircraft Establishment officials visited the county in 1966 to survey sites around Brancaster.

The flat vista was seen as ideal for rocket launches as it gave a clear run to the polar region.

A research base was already set up on the Isle of Wight when Norfolk's bid to host Britain's space age was made.

The county was considered because it was also close to sources of personnel, materials and engineering skills.

Image caption The flat vista around Brancaster was highlighted as rockets could have a clear run to the polar regions

"North Norfolk appears much more attractive technically. It would permit the launching of polar satellites," the Royal Aircraft Establishment report said.

"Logistically it is very satisfactory as personnel and equipment could be obtained quickly and the huge engineering and technical complex in southern England is close at hand."

Coastal Norfolk in 1966 was seen as "remote", would not attract objections and had a military infrastructure left over from World War Two.

Image caption New satellites would have been put into orbit using the rocket launch site planned for Brancaster
Image caption The Black Arrow rocket was chosen as the launch vehicle for Britain's space race programme

"It would have none of the objections made to other sites and it would have technical and financial advantages," the report said.

"No site has been selected but there were several north of the coastal road that would appear adequate. Ideally the site should be within five miles of a disused airfield with existing buildings.

"All that would be required in these circumstances would be the construction of a launch area on the coastline and all other operations could be conducted from other sites linked together by microwave and hard wire."

The Black Arrow rocket was eventually chosen as the ideal vehicle to carry satellites.

Space Station Norfolk on BBC Radio Norfolk Monday 6pm and for 30 days on the BBC iPlayer.

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