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On This Day In Space: Oct. 28, 1971: UK Launches Its 1st Satellite

On Oct. 28, 1971, the United Kingdom launched its first satellite. The satellite was named Prospero, but it was also known as the X-3.

This wasn’t Britain’s first satellite, but it was the first and only one the British space program launched with one of its own rockets. The first six British satellites all launched from the United States on NASA rockets. Prospero launched on a carrier rocket called the Black Arrow.


The research satellite Prospero is the only British spacecraft to launch on the British-built Black Arrow rocket. (Image credit: Wikimedia Commons/Geni)


The Prospero mission was the fourth and final flight of a Black Arrow rocket. Prospero was designed to study how the environment in space affects communications satellites. It tested things solar cells and telemetry systems, and even had a micrometeoroid detector that would determine small particles in space posed a threat to the spacecraft.

The mission lifted off from the Woomera Range Complex in Australia. While the launch was a success, the rocket’s final stage bumped into the satellite after it separated, and the collision broke one of Prospero’s four radio antennas. But the satellite still worked, and it remained operational until 1973.

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