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The Prospero satellite, also known as the X-3,[2] was launched by the United Kingdom in 1971. It was designed to undertake a series of experiments to study the effects of space environment on communications satellites and remained operational until 1973, after which it was contacted annually for over 25 years.[3] Although Prospero was the first British satellite to have been launched successfully by a British rocket, the first British satellite placed in orbit was Ariel 1, launched in April 1962 on a U.S. rocket.

Construction

Prospero was built by the Royal Aircraft Establishment in Farnborough.[3] Initially called Puck,[4] it was designed to conduct experiments to test the technologies necessary for communication satellites. Two experimental solar cells setups were tested. One was a test of a lightweight cell and mounting.[5] The other was an attempt to replace the then standard fused silica cover of solar cells with a Cerium oxide based cover.[5] Designs for telemetry and power systems were also tested. It also carried a micrometeoroid detector, to measure the presence of very small particles.[6] The detector worked on the principle of impact ionisation.[7] When the Ministry of Defence cancelled the Black Arrow programme,[8] the development team decided to continue with the project,[3] but renamed the satellite Prospero when it was announced it would be the last launch attempt using a British rocket.[4] An earlier Black Arrow launch, carrying the Orba X-2 satellite, had failed to achieve orbit after a premature second-stage shut down.[9]

Launch

Prospero was launched at 04:09 GMT on 28 October 1971, from Launch Area 5B (LA-5B) at Woomera, South Australia, on a Black Arrow rocket, making Britain the sixth nation to place a satellite into orbit using a domestically developed carrier rocket.[10] The Black Arrow's final stage Waxwing rocket also entered orbit, "rather too enthusiastically", as it continued to thrust after separation and collided with Prospero, detaching one of the satellite's four radio antennae.[11]

Operations

The satellite was operated from R.A.E Lasham. For the satellite's early orbits additional reporting was provided by the European Space Research Org

Prospero was launched at 04:09 GMT on 28 October 1971, from Launch Area 5B (LA-5B) at Woomera, South Australia, on a Black Arrow rocket, making Britain the sixth nation to place a satellite into orbit using a domestically developed carrier rocket.[10] The Black Arrow's final stage Waxwing rocket also entered orbit, "rather too enthusiastically", as it continued to thrust after separation and collided with Prospero, detaching one of the satellite's four radio antennae.[11]

Operations<

The satellite was operated from R.A.E Lasham. For the satellite's early orbits additional reporting was provided by the European Space Research Organisation's ESTRACK system.[5] In regular operation real time data support was provided by a Science Research Council station at Port Stanley in the Falkland Islands.[5]

Results

The li

The lightweight solar cell design was found to be successful.[5] The Cerium oxide cover was not, with the solar cell using it showing an increased rate of degradation.[5]

Current status