Feeds

Woomera: Ghosts of Britain's space past

El Reg treads the Prohibited Area

Build a business case: developing custom apps

During our recent Oz roadtrip in pursuit of the World Solar Challenge, El Reg's Special Projects Bureau made a lightning visit to Woomera, where Britain's space programme was played out and, ultimately, laid to rest.

The town (pictured below on Google Earth) was established in 1947 as the core of a joint Anglo-Australian testing range - the vast Woomera Prohibited Area, which might be, we thought, the perfect place to launch our Low Orbit Helium Assisted Navigator (LOHAN) spaceplane.

Aerial view of Woomera

We had only 40 minutes or so to recce Woomera, before getting back on the Stuart Highway to Adelaide, some 480km to the south. It's a spooky place, as those readers who've been there will confirm. Although it once housed thousands of people, the only sign of life we detected was the distant sound of some kids splashing around in a swimming pool.

Although Woomera is evidently not dead - and testing in the Prohibited Area continues to this day - the UK space programme it once hosted certainly is.

On 28 October, 1971, a Black Arrow rocket launched from Woomera and carried the Prospero satellite into orbit, even though the British government had already cancelled the programme.

On that day, Britain became the only nation ever to develop a successful home-grown satellite launching capability, and then abandon it completely.

By a strange co-incidence, 28 October was the date of our successful Paper Aircraft Released Into Space (PARIS) aircraft launch last year, which got us thinking that perhaps a British scientific return to Woomera is destined to be, by way of tribute to all those who flew the flag Down Under, only to have their work ultimately thrown away by politicians.

Wiping a small tear from the corner of our eyes, then, we cruised the streets of Woomera, in the tyre tracks of a previous visitor - a Google Orwellian spymobile whose all-seeing eye has served up the whole place on Street View:

Woomera streets on Street View

The Woomera missile park, seen on Street View

As perhaps is appropriate for ghostly Woomera, the Street View car managed to capture a ghostly image of itself as it passed the Woomera Village Store...

The Woomera Village Store on Street View

...which is almost as interesting as the words "BOTTLE SHOP" writ large. Let's face it, there's no way the LOHAN team is going to go mob-handed to Woomera if it can't source cold stubbies.

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

Next page: 1:

More from The Register

next story
Boffins attempt to prove the UNIVERSE IS JUST A HOLOGRAM
Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?
Our LOHAN spaceplane ballocket Kickstarter climbs through £8000
Through 25 per cent but more is needed: Get your UNIQUE rewards!
China building SUPERSONIC SUBMARINE that travels in a BUBBLE
Shanghai to San Fran in two hours would be a trick, though
LOHAN tunes into ultra long range radio
And verily, Vultures shall speak status unto distant receivers
SpaceX prototype rocket EXPLODES over Texas. 'Tricky' biz, says Elon Musk
No injuries or near injuries. Flight stayed in designated area
Galileo, Galileo! Galileo, Galileo! Galileo fit to go. Magnifico
I'm just a poor boy, nobody loves me. But at least I can find my way with ESA GPS by 2017
EOS, Lockheed to track space junk from Oz
WA facility gets laser-eyes out of the fog
prev story

Whitepapers

Top 10 endpoint backup mistakes
Avoid the ten endpoint backup mistakes to ensure that your critical corporate data is protected and end user productivity is improved.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Backing up distributed data
Eliminating the redundant use of bandwidth and storage capacity and application consolidation in the modern data center.
The essential guide to IT transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIOs automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.