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Space Vehicle Launchers (European Co-Operation)

Volume 644: debated on Monday 10 July 1961

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asked the Minister of Aviation if he will now announce the terms on which European Governments have accepted Blue Streak.


asked the Minister of Aviation what decision has been reached concerning the use of Blue Streak as a satellite launcher; and what replies have been received from West Germany and other European countries concerned.


asked the Minister of Aviation whether he will make a statement on Her Majesty's Government's proposals for a European organisation for the development of space vehicle launchers, in view of the Federal German Government's willingness in principle to participate in such an organisation.


asked the Minister of Aviation what stage has now been reached in the development and production of a satellite launcher on a co-operative basis; and if he will make a statement.

The Federal German Government have informed Her Majesty's Government that the Federal Republic is prepared in principle to take part in a European organisation for the development of space vehicle launchers. The final replies of the other Governments represented at the Strasbourg Conference are expected shortly. I hope that it will be possible soon to call a conference to draft a convention to establish an organisation along the lines of the Anglo-French proposals.

Can the hon. Gentleman say whether this is the start of an organisation which will provide a much bigger market for British scientists and industrialists who are engaged in developing this sort of vehicle? Secondly, can he give an idea how far it is primarily a military and how far a civilian enterprise?

This is entirely a civilian enterprise. As regards the first part of the supplementary question, if the organisation comes into being I hope that it will provide new fields and new opportunities for our scientists and those of the other members.

I agree with the hon. Gentleman that this opens up an attractive prospect, but will he assure the House that the financial cost to this country of the scheme will be borne in mind? As I understand it, we are contributing Blue Streak which has cost in the region of £60 million already. It is said that we propose to take on about one-third of the burden of the remaining programme. Will the hon. Gentleman see to it that our collaborators bear at any rate an equitable part of this cost?

Under the Anglo-French proposals it was envisaged that the initial programme would cost about £70 million spread over five years, and that Her Majesty's Government would contribute one-third of the cost of the initial programme.

Can the hon. Gentleman say whether the other Governments concerned think that that amount of money over that period of time is adequate to start a worth-While space programme? Can he also say what steps will be taken to avoid any duplication of effort? Also, what is the future of Spadeadam and Woomera as a result of this?

We think that this will be sufficient to launch a worth-while programme. Other Governments will be contributing an appropriate percentage—for instance, the French Government 20·6 per cent. and the Federal German Government 19 per cent.—on the proposals as they now stand. I imagine that there will be considerable discussion about details at the conference and the precise percentage may depend on how many of the other Governments eventually contribute. I do not envisage duplication with any other organisation or any other work. We assume that Spadeadam will now carry on its good work. We certainly envisage the use of the Woomera facilities for the trials, and we also envisage Australia being a full member of the organisation.