Black Knight

The first Black Knight roared into Woomera's skies from Launcher 5A on 7 September 1958, reaching an altitude of 225 kilometres. The ballistic test vehicle was developed by Saunders-Roe Ltd. in collaboration with the Royal Aircraft Establishment in the United Kingdom to gather data as part of the development of Britain's Blue Streak Intercontinental Ballistic Missile program.

Black Knight at the Missile Park in WoomeraThe basic single-stage Black Knight was powered by a Gamma Mk. 201 rocket engine. The vehicle would attain a burnout velocity of over 12,000 km per hour at an altitude of about 113 kilometres. The nose cone would then separate, continue coasting to an altitude of about 800 kilometres, and then re-enter the atmosphere before being recovered.  Total flight times were about 20 minutes.

On 24 May, 1960, the sixth Black Knight took to the sky as a two-stage version with the nose cone being recovered after a successful mission. The second stage increased the velocity of re-entry to that expected for a Blue Streak warhead. When the Blue Streak program was cancelled in 1960, the two-stage Black Knight version was used for the Gaslight program which gathered data related to physical phenomena associated with high-speed re-entry into Earth's atmosphere.

A two-stage version also was used in Project Dazzle - a joint Anglo-Australian-US program researching phenomena occurring during re-entry. Two-stage Black Knights used a more powerful Gamma MK. 301 rocket engine.

The single-stage Black Knight had an overall length of 10.16 metres, while the two-stage version was 11.6 metres long. The diameter was 0.91 metres with a span across the fins of 2.13 metres.

A History of Woomera
Research Missiles
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Copyright © 1997-2001  Mark T. Rigby
(Last updated: 16 October, 2001)