European launcher

Each of ESRO's satellites ultimately had to rely on an American rocket to put it into space, but it seemed obvious that Europe should have its own launch vehicle. After Britain's attempts to develop the three-stage Black Prince launcher with partners from the British Commonwealth came to nothing, the project was taken over by the European partnership. A new agency, the European Launcher Development Organisation (ELDO), was set up to coordinate its


The Cos-B gamma-ray observatory, launched for ESA by a US rocket on 9 August 1975, was largely developed under ESRO. Like many of their satellites, it was a great success.


ESA's launcher systems are all tested at the 58m-(190ft-) high Launcher Integration Building at Kourou. From here, rockets are transferred along a rail track to the Final Assembly Building, and then on to the launch pad.



Blue Streak Missile Silo

development - it included six members of ESRO and also Australia. The new Europa launch vehicle, as it was known, was to use Britain's Blue Streak missile as its base, with upper stages provided by France and Germany. Italy took responsibility for the payload fairing, the Netherlands for telemetry systems, and Belgium for the ground tracking, while the launch site would be at Woomera, Australia.

With so many contributions from isolated teams in various countries and no overall firm leadership, the Europa project proved the impossibility of launch-vehicle design by committee. While the Blue Streak-based stage performed reliably throughout a series of launches from 1966 onwards, either the French Coralie second stage or the German Astris upper stage failed in each case. The British decision to discontinue all work on Blue Streak in 1968 finally sealed the project's fate.

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