United Kingdom space policy, 1955-60.
This is a policy history of the earliest period of ·space' and the United Kingdom. tt is mainly
concemed with the creation of the UK's first space policy, announced in 1959, but considers
key precursor programmes as well as operational aspects of the policy itself. It treats both civil
and military factors.
Part I considers the precursors, i.e. the early upper atmosphere sounding rocket programme
set up in 1955, and the early military interest in reconnaissance from satellites. Key to the
former was the coincidence of civil and military interest in the upper atmosphere, the former
for purely scientific reasons, the latter on account of the development of Blue Streak, the UK's
medium range ballistic missile. The crucial development of the concept of using Blue Streak
as the basis of a satellite launcher arose and is considered under the reconnaissance interest.
Part II narrates developments between 1958 and 1959, when the UK's first policy was being
developed in Whitehall. This process amounted to the fonnulation of a proposal for a civil
scientific space programme based on Blue Streak, and the proposal's subsequent
assessment. The roles of the key actors are analysed in detail - government
departmentslbodies, the Royal Society, leading individual ministers, officials, advisers and
independent scientists. Central is the assessment exercise mounted by the government's
AdviSOry Council on Scientific Policy (ACSP), and the vexed question of scientific and
Part III examines operational aspects. Though only a comparatively modest programme was
agreed in 1959, it engendered serious problems in operation, some symptomatic of ailments
in the whole system of government funded science. This part also considers all-important
developments in the military's attitude towards space between 1959 and 1960