Audio Ian Ritchie describes the launch of the Blue Streak, 2006

TLF ID R8848

This is an edited sound recording of Ian Ritchie recalling the first launch of a Europa Blue Streak rocket from the Woomera rocket range in South Australia on 5 June 1964. Ritchie, an engine technician at the range, tells of the noise at lift-off and how the first flight of the rocket was cut short. The recording was made in December 2006 and lasts for 1 min 51 s.



Educational details

Educational value
  • The recording gives a first-hand account of what it was like to be involved in the first launch of a Europa Blue Streak experimental rocket. The rocket was a project of the European Launch Development Organisation involving seven European countries. Originally developed as a British missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead for up to 4,000 km, the Blue Streak was supposed to be the first stage of a three-stage system to carry Europe's first satellite into space.
  • Ritchie captures something of the tense atmosphere in the control room, which was in a bunker more than 1 km away from the launch site. As an engine technician, Ritchie was not part of the team in the control room seated at the consoles and watching over instruments that provided information such as fuel pressure, temperature, launch site clearance and camera system readiness, but he shared in the tension and anticipation as the countdown proceeded.
  • A total of ten Blue Streak rockets, made by the de Havilland Aircraft Company in England, were launched at Woomera in 1964-65. All the launches were successful. However, when combined with the second and third stages (French and German respectively), the proposed satellite launch system failed on several occasions. In 1968 the British Government cancelled the Blue Streak program, marking the end of British involvement in advanced rocketry.
  • The Woomera rocket range contains a number of launch sites in an area covering 270,000 sq km in central SA. Britain initially asked Australia to provide a remote and sparsely populated area where it could develop its military capabilities, notably with missile technology and ballistics. The range was used from 1949 to test bombs, rockets and missiles.
  • The Australian scientists and technicians who worked at Woomera developed significant expertise in areas such as advanced optics, telemetry and rocket fuel chemistry. In 1967 the Woomera range was used to launch the WRESAT satellite, making Australia the third country in the world, after the USA and the then Soviet Union, to launch a satellite from its own territory.
Year level

4; 5; 6; 7; 8; 9; 10; 11; 12

Learning area
  • history;
  • science;
  • studies of society and environment
Strand
  • Science/Science as a human endeavour

    Other details

    Contributors
    • Publisher
    • Date of contribution: 20 Sep 2013
    • Organisation: Education Services Australia
    • Address: Melbourne VIC 3000 Australia
    • URL: http://www.esa.edu.au/
    • Copyright holder
    • Organisation: Education Services Australia
    • Address: Melbourne VIC 3000 Australia
    • URL: http://www.esa.edu.au/
    • Remarks: Copyright Education Services Australia
    • Content provider
    • Organisation: Education Services Australia
    • Address: Melbourne VIC 3000 Australia
    • URL: http://www.esa.edu.au/
    • Author
    • Date of contribution: 2006
    • Name: Ian Ritchie
    • Remarks: speaker
    Access profile
    • Colour independence
    • Device independence
    Learning resource type
    • Sound
    Browsers
    • Microsoft Internet Explorer - minimum version: 8.0 (MS-Windows) - maximum version: 9.0 (MS-Windows)
    • Firefox - minimum version: (MS-Windows)
    • Safari - minimum version: 5.1 (MacOS)
    Operating systems
    • MacOS - minimum version: 10.6
    • MS-Windows - minimum version: XP - maximum version: 7
    Rights
    • © Education Services Australia Ltd, 2013, except where indicated under Acknowledgements.