ELDO




A Europa launch.


ELDO was a political construct. Whilst Britain was proceeding - slowly - with work on Black Prince, an approach was made by France to build a joint launcher. A design for a launcher was sketched out before the Foreign Office got into the act and decided to improve Britain's European credentials by opening the project out - and delaying progress by another two years.

However, a design was produced by 1964: Blue Streak, a French second stage derived from the Coralie rocket, a German third stage, Italian test satellite and fairings. Australia was to provide the launch facilities. Holland and Belgium were to provide ground stations and telemetry. The resultant design was christened Europa, and more detailed drawings can be found here.

But in 1964 two problems arose. One was the reluctance of the new Wilson Government, elected in October, to continue with big aerospace projects, and the second was the realisation by the French that Europa was inadequate for launching communication satellites into geosynchronous orbit. Indeed, there seemed no rationale for Europa at all: there were never any satellites for it to launch.
However, the British found themselves tied to ELDO by international treaty, and, unable to withdraw, dragged their heels for the next few years, leading to various funding crises. It was then decided to adapt Europa for geosynchronous launches, and the perigee/apogee system (PAS), with an extra motor for tranfer to GTO, was devised. The new vehicle was christened Europa II [although differences were small]. However, an equatorial launch site would be needed.
The main contenders were Darwin in Australia and Kourou in French Guyana. Given the waning AngloSaxon influence in ELDO, Kourou was chosen, and Australia dropped out of ELDO.




Meanwhile, test flights began. The first three were of Blue Streak by itself. The first flight, F1, terminated slightly early due to fuel sloshing in the tanks. [A video of this can be seen elsewhere on the site, as well as a video of a Europa launch.] F2 and F3 were completely succesful. F4 was Blue Streak plus dummy upper stages. The flight was terminated prematurely and somewhat controversially by the Australian Range Safety Officer. In fact, the vehicle probably was within limits, but the decision had to be taken farily rapidly.
F5 was a succesful repeat of F4. F6/1 had a live second stage which failed to ignite. F6/2 was a repeat attempt, but this time the stages failed to separate.
All the stages were live in F7: the first two worked, the third stage blew up after seven seconds. The same problem occured with F8.
F9 was the last launch from Woomera. All stages were successful. However, this time the Italian fairings failed to separate, and the vehicle was slightly too heavy to achieve orbit. F9 would be last launch from Woomera. F10 was not fired.
F11 was fired from Kourou. The vehicle blew up near the end of the first stage firing. Electrostatic discharge from the third stage and fairings damaged the electronics of the autopilot sequencer, and the vehicle lost control.


F12 was abandoned, and lies in the South American jungle, being used as a chicken coop. Other Blue Streaks exist in various states of assembly:
F13 is in Munich, F14 in the museum at East Fortune near Edinburgh, F15 at REDU in Belgium, and F16 can now be seen at the new National Space Centre in Leicester. F17 and F18 were not assembled.



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