The UK Space site has a fabulous documentary on the Black Arrow, including footage of a launch in the opening sequence that’s unlike any rocket launch you’ve seen, because the exhaust is clear and (for the most part) invisible.

Filled with film of all aspects of the assembly and testing, the documentary has former personnel describing describing their activities and adventures. We see the Isle of Wright assembly and test areas, built into a Napoleonic fort. Once tested, the rockets were packed up and shipped around the globe to Australia. There, in the middle of a stoney desert, the town of Woomera grew to 5000 people – most of whom were linked to the test range and rocket launching. Video of the first Black Arrow launch – Jun 28th, 1969 – is included with reminiscences of some of the people who launched it. While the second launch went fine, a fuel leak on the third flight doomed that vehicle and in July of 1971, twenty five months after the first launch, the programme was cancelled.

But … not having received written instructions to that effect, the company manager on site decided to continue preparations to launch a satellite – which they did on the 28th of October 1971. Sadly, 3 days later the programme shut down and 1/2 the staff let go.

As a fitting note, the documentary ends with the comments that “To date, the UK is the only nation to successfully develop, then abandon, satellite launch capability.”

The flash video can be seen at:

Black Arrow Documentary