Tracking the British Prospero Satellite

Tracking the British Prospero Satellite

Any holiday to the Isle of Wight wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the Needles, so with that in mind I travelled to the western most point of the island. At the top of the cliffs overlooking the Needles are the remains of 19th century fortifications which were later converted for use during both World Wars.

Also in the area are the remains of the High Down Rocket Testing Site which between the early 1950s and 1970s tested both Black Arrow and Black Knight rockets. On the 28th October 1971 the Black Arrow successfully launched the Prospero Satellite, which was the first and still to this day only British satellite to have been launched by a British rocket.

Whilst the testing took place at High Down the actual launch of Prospero happened in Woomera, South Australia. When I read this at the remains of the facility my interest peaked as I have previously seen a few space covers of the 1970s and 80s with a Woomera postmark and wondered what the link was. With a clear connection to Britain’s historic satellite launch this postmark would make a nice addition to any collection.

CAPTION: Richard Gordon signed Australian Apollo 12 First Anniversary of the Mission’s Moon Landing cover with Woomera, South Australia postmark (location of one of Australia’s main observatories)


Sadly after the successful launch of Prospero the government withdrew funding and High Down was closed, and along with it this British accomplishment has been largely forgotten. Although with the 50th anniversary not too far away in 2021 surely the launch of Prospero will deserve a commemorative cover, and an Isle of Wight postmark to match.


All the Best,


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