National Space Centre

Your Webmaster was delighted to be able to follow a visit to Malcolm, Maureen, Brian & John at The Signal Box - distributors of our videos -  with an assessment of the National Space Centre, which is only about four miles away, in Leicester.

Displays of rocket hardware in the United States are out in the open in the South; Leicester has adopted the approach used by the Smithsonian in Washington - protect these priceless exhibits under cover. They are enclosed in a unique giant "bubble".

Quite a decent view is obtained even from outside, of the major hardware, which also includes a Skylark sounding rocket, regularly fired from Sweden to the edge of the atmosphere.


The Big Bubble
Blue Streak / Thor
The Thor launch vehicle to the right of the picture alongside is a precursor of the American Delta launcher, used for many  unmanned missions from Cape Canaveral.

Those interested in British rockets will be fascinated by Blue Streak (left). Developed originally for defence purposes, this was to be the first stage of a European three-stage vehicle, and was itself entirely successful, at Woomera (Australia). Stages two (French) and three (German) failed however, resulting in abandonment of the project. France built on the experience gained with us though, and with Ariane is now highly successful.

Power Department
Below the mighty Rolls-Royce engines - built in Derby and as perfect as their cars, if not more so - are the tables of the café. Whilst no doubt the umpteen tonnes ("only " as heavy as a steam locomotive!) hanging above some of the tables are totally secure, your Webmaster would feel just a tad uncomfortable sat with a sandwich and a coffee underneath all that weight. The Americans tend not to be so ambitious as to raise hardware on high in quite this fashion.
 Even more interesting perhaps for those of a scientific or engineering bent - solid rocket fuel on display...a hole through the fuel (presumably the famous Thiokol rubber mixed with propellant) controls the burn rate, and hence the thrust. The hole pattern and size can even be varied through the charge. Small solid-fuel propulsion units only a few inches/centimetres in size were on show - these can go on the outside of a vehicle casing for 1/30 second of thrust for various corrections to attitude or course.
Solid rocket fuel Manoevering rockets
Thiokol, in a nutshell, was a smelly synthetic rubber - it contains sulphur - not enjoying much commercial success and struggling with complaints of nasty niffs around the plant.....until someone discovered it was an amazingly good material for making solid propellant. Thiokol Corporation quickly became a celebrated success story.

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