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British pre 1939 rocketry

PMN1

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From wiki but I have seen it in other places as well

When originally formed in January 1933, the BIS aimed not only to promote and raise the public profile of astronautics, but also to undertake practical experimentation into rocketry along similar lines to the organisations above. However early in 1936, the Society discovered that this ambition was thwarted by the Explosives Act of 1875, which prevented any private testing of liquid-fuel rockets in the United Kingdom.


Now, if liquid fueled rockets were allowed, what route is likely to have been taken in the UK?
 

Spark

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Hi PMN1/Grey Havoc.

Correction.

Prof. Archibald Montgomery (early BIS President) Low Great War patents anticipated the V2 by about twenty-five years. They were released 1925 just prior to Goddard’s success and the start of the German Army’s Rocket programme. I think it was Burgess who ran afoul of the act in the mid-thirties.
The BIS suggested HTP RC for their Moon Expeditions space craft scheme with Bluff ablative heat shield. In secret the UK looked at Liquid Fuel Rockets in the mid-thirties but concluded that “solids made more sense” in the probable time allotted before the next conflict. Note also that the possibility of an atomic powered rocket , Bulletin No.6 Vol. 3, June 1939, reference to Nature May1939 Adler and von Halban possible atomic explosion also Daily Express August 1939 were in the public arena by the start of WW2.
Would the Great pioneer Goddard have got more funding if the BIS had successfully launched a Liquid rocket?


Grey Havoc said:
Hmmm, given that the RAE had been able to build the Long-Range Gun With Lynx Engine (LARYNX) back in 1927, perhaps the BIS might have been able to lay the groundwork for a British V-1 equivalent in the early 1940s?
 

PMN1

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Spark said:
The BIS suggested HTP RC for their Moon Expeditions space craft scheme with Bluff ablative heat shield. In secret the UK looked at Liquid Fuel Rockets in the mid-thirties but concluded that “solids made more sense” in the probable time allotted before the next conflict.
Did wonder about HTP.

Lindemann is supposed to have dismissed the idea of German rockets as he considered that solids did not have the capability but failed to consider liquids, anyone know how true that story is?
 

alertken

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spark: MoS blocked guided weapons for a while. Please amplify.
 

Spark

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Hi AlertKen
Wirless interview circa1956; also A M Lowe, Frank Whittle and others put forward proposals that were not taken up. there was some delay before they took up beam guidance and Faireys wireless command guidance? Has any one got details please.

alertken said:
spark: MoS blocked guided weapons for a while. Please amplify.
 

alertken

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S R Twigge, Early Devt UK GW traces start to RN anti-kamikaze, 1944. By 1948 Morien Morgan, RAE, is peddling 20 projects trying to find interest - airframers like Geo Edwards profoundly disinterested, and EKCO et al-brown goods firms utterly unconcerned with such low volume diversion from gramophones.

(added, 20/9) There was an attempt by RAE, 1947-48, to create a Royal Projectiles Factory, treating GW as ordnance. MoS chose to keep UK GW in industry - but in the aircraft industry. France and US largely put early-GW into arsenals.
 

PMN1

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Spark said:
Hi PMN1/Grey Havoc.

Correction.

Prof. Archibald Montgomery (early BIS President) Low Great War patents anticipated the V2 by about twenty-five years. They were released 1925 just prior to Goddard’s success and the start of the German Army’s Rocket programme. I think it was Burgess who ran afoul of the act in the mid-thirties.
The BIS suggested HTP RC for their Moon Expeditions space craft scheme with Bluff ablative heat shield. In secret the UK looked at Liquid Fuel Rockets in the mid-thirties but concluded that “solids made more sense” in the probable time allotted before the next conflict.
Have you seen any estimates on the amount of HTP production required?
 

Spark

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Hi PMN1,

Not a lot, the HTP was for RC reaction controls, 100% HTP and must have had a metal catalysis. Propulsion was with multi stage modern solid propellant rockets. Note HTP work in the UK predated every were else in the middle twenties and was for RN torpedoes until over taken by other UK work.



PMN1 said:
Spark said:
Hi PMN1/Grey Havoc.

Correction.

Prof. Archibald Montgomery (early BIS President) Low Great War patents anticipated the V2 by about twenty-five years. They were released 1925 just prior to Goddard’s success and the start of the German Army’s Rocket programme. I think it was Burgess who ran afoul of the act in the mid-thirties.
The BIS suggested HTP RC for their Moon Expeditions space craft scheme with Bluff ablative heat shield. In secret the UK looked at Liquid Fuel Rockets in the mid-thirties but concluded that “solids made more sense” in the probable time allotted before the next conflict.
Have you seen any estimates on the amount of HTP production required?
 

PMN1

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Reply from Mark Hempsell over on the NASSASpaceflight website

http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=30569.0

The constraints of the Explosive Act on the BIS early activities was I think in part due BIS perceptions of the Act which they did not challenge but more due their perception of the state of rocket technology.

The Explosive Act is primarily aimed at public safety although with a consequence it also provided a tool to use against terrorism, which has been a concern for the UK since Victorian times. It does not ban rockets but it does impose a massive bureaucratic burden. . Consider, Pre-war, asking the Secretary of State to provide a licence for large rocket production with the objective to travel between planets and I am sure you will see it would be rather a tough pitch. I doubt the BIS would have successful getting the necessary licence and I don’t think they tried.

I am not a lawyer but my reading of the Act is that, while the Act very clearly and explicitly covers solid propellant rockets, it would not cover liquid rockets. However Pre-war the BIS clearly though liquid rockets were a very long term technology highlighted by the fact the pre-war Moonship was designed around clustered solids. The practical development work they did undertake was all based on the Moonship so if they wanted to do rocket work, then solid rockets would be the only thing they would have thought of and that was covered by the Explosive Act.

However since the Act does cover vaguely “rockets” the BIS may have concluded it would apply to liquids, although of course at the time of drafting the Act this would have had no meaning and almost none of the Acts provision make sense in the context of liquid rocket. The simple expedient of calling liquid rockets “jet engines” (as they were called in the USA) would have overcome this problem by making it clear they were not rockets as defined in the explosives act but that route probably did not occur to them.

So I think the answer to the question why didn’t the BIS do early liquid work pre-war? was due to the BIS members not realising it was a practical proposition. America, Germany and Russia were all keeping their liquid work secret (or more accurately in the case of Goddard in the USA choosing not to publicise it - which was just as effective pre-internet) so they had no way of knowing about the work was going on elsewhere. Post war the BIS did revise the Moonship study around liquids which all the V2 impact sites showed it was clearly an established technology, but also it was clear the field was already way beyond useful amateur efforts on the scale the BIS could muster.
 

PMN1

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Further posting from Mark Hempsell in response to my posting Sparks reply.


the reaction control thrusters on the pre-war moonship are labled steam steering jets, and are almost certainly H2O2 monopropellant rockets. As an aside re: my earlier post; note they call them jets not rockets.

In his history of the BIS ("Interplanetary: A History of the British Interplanetary Society") Bob Parkinson does not mention the Explosives Act but does mention lack of funds as the restriction on practical work, the annual budget of the BIS was a £100 a year (around £10,000 in modern money) in the late 1930s. He also notes that in 1938/39 R.A.Smith did build "an extremely basic and crude test stand" so rocket testing was apparently on the agenda of the technical committee.

I will speak with Bob on this subject. He has made a study of the early BIS designs and probably can speak with as much knowledge and authority as anyone on this subject .
 

PMN1

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Follow up from Mark


I emailed Bob Parkinson as promised about this thread and received this reply

“I had a look at this thread. One thing that immediately strikes me about this discussion is something I met when I was writing INTERPLANETARY, which is that the culture of the 1930s is almost as alien to the one we are familiar with as Ancient Greece. The people, like Eric Burgess, who were trying to do things with rockets were teenagers - Arthur C Clarke was 20 in 1937, and did not get a degree until after the War (and some of his thoughts about spaceflight in pre-War days show this lack.) Someone suggests fictionalizing the activity - "even sells their automobile" - nobody except the very rich and (some) farmers even had cars at the time. There were a few older heads among the pre-War BIS, but even Phil Cleator was only 31 when War broke out. The Germans at the Racketenflugplatz were perhaps a little better off (and perhaps had a few older members) but they spent all their money doing (often quite dangerous) experiments and couldn't maintain their publication rate and hence their membership. I think that the German work on HTP probably emerged from industrial interest in other things.”

I called Bob for some additional clarification and he pointed out there is much more in his book “Interplanetary” which I would recommend to anyone interested in this subject

The BIS relation with Zucker is covered on Page 12 it was very brief contact when he first arrived. And it does look as if his activities did upset authorities.

Also on Page 12 he records Phil Cleator did early on enquire about rocket activity with the Home Office and was told the Explosive Act would apply. He did try and lobby MPs to change the law but by 1938 conceded defeat.

Younger members did do modest solid rocket firings often modifying Fireworks, illegally of course. Page 24 shows a photo of a three stage rocket dated 1937. In the same year Eric Burgess was charged with contravening the Explosive Act after an explosion which slightly injured two onlookers but in the Magistrate’s Court he managed to talk his way out of conviction.
 

PMN1

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A reply from Ukrocketman


Perhaps I can inject a bit more to Mark Hempsell's excellent description....

I was Chair of the UK Rocketry Association's Safety and Technical Committee for several years, prior to involvement in the BIS, Reaction Engines and Airborne Engineering, so questions relating to the UK Explosives Act came up regularly.

Basically, as Mark says, liquids (and hybrids) are not an issue within the Act (although there are a few officious jobsworths who try and scare people into thinking they fall within the act). The issue in the UK is making your own solid propellant, which is classed as "an act of manufacture", and can result in a knock on the door from the authorities. They really do take a dim view of making solid propellant, unless in a licenced facility such as a rocket propellant factory or a fireworks factory.

However, from talking to people over the years, it would seem the Act has not always been applied uniformly, and at various times in the past, you would find some authorities would take an interpretation of the act that was incredibly restrictive, thus it would not surprise me if the early BIS members were just given a blanket no to any question they posed to the authorities at that time, be it for solid propellant or liquids. Or, they received the negative response regarding solid propellant, and interpreted that to cover liquids too.

As Mark has indicated too, Zucker did the British rocketeers no favours with his antics either.

I hope this helps?
 

Stargazer2006

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Grey Havoc said:
Hmmm, given that the RAE had been able to build the Long-Range Gun With Lynx Engine (LARYNX) back in 1927, perhaps the BIS might have been able to lay the groundwork for a British V-1 equivalent in the early 1940s?
For lack of a better place to post it, here is a couple of photos of the LARYNX, obviously a pretty advanced concept for 1927.
 

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Kadija_Man

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Queen Bee was even more advanced and much forgotten about in the context of drones and UAVs.



While conversions of existing aircraft design, a Tiger Moth, to remote control, the remote control system was quite advanced and very reliable.
 

Stargazer2006

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What I meant by advanced had more to do with the fact that it was designed from the start as an unmanned vehicle and in a way resembled some targets that appeared two decades later. But of course in terms of technical progress in radio control the Queen Bee was better. Here are two other unmanned British types from before the war:
  • Airspeed A.S.30 Queen Wasp (specification Q.32/35, 2 built and flown in 1937)
  • Miles M.10 Queen Wasp (specification Q.32/35, also 2 ordered but cancelled before completion)
 

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