British History . History . World History

Collaborations in Space: Memories of British Space Science, 1960–1980

By Peter SanfordBRW7-1Cover

Peter Sanford, now retired, is known for his contributions to the development of rocket and satellite instruments, for the observations of X-rays from binary stars and galaxies. Below is an extract from his Memoir in Britain and the World, Volume 7.2.

“The Ariel 1 satellite – the first British satellite – was launched successfully on 26 April 1962. With its launch, the United Kingdom became the first nation after the two superpowers to have successfully launched a satellite, though this would have been impossible without American help. We were all pleased and relieved that the X-ray instrument seemed to be working as planned…. We were consequently offered the chance of further involvement in American satellites and we were all pretty pleased with ourselves.

Starfish

However, on 9 July 1962, during the summer just before the Cuban Missile Crisis, which saw the world come dangerously close to nuclear war, a spanner got through into the works. The Americans conducted a high altitude nuclear explosion, code named ‘Starfish’, which had an immediate and lasting effect on the radiation environment of the Ariel 1 satellite. We were note expecting it, and neither, if my memory served me correctly, was NASA – certainly they did not seem to be anticipating it in our contacts with them….”

This extract appears in the free ‘Witness to History’ section of Britain and the World, 7.2 (2014): 261–269

Article DOI: 10.3366/brw.2014.0151

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