Monday, 8 October 2018

September Members Meeting


There was a good turnout for our first Members meeting after the Summer break. We were treated to an enthralling talk by Alastair Scott, former President of the British Interplanatary Society (BIS).

We learnt that the BIS was founded in Liverpool in 1933 and is the oldest space advocacy organisation in the world. Its mission is to promote the exploration and use of space for the benefit of humanity by connecting people to create, educate and inspire and advance knowledge in all aspects of astronautics.

Alastair explained how BIS members became involved with the British Aerospace industry and told us of his own career in the industry and how it had evolved over many years through a sequence of mergers.

The speaker pointed out that it was a myth that there was no British Space programme and that in fact it had a proud heritage in taking space travel from imagination to reality. This included in the early days providing the inspiration for Apollo 11 and showing the USA how to build satellites.

To the surprise of many, he told us that the centre of the British aerospace programme was based at a complex in Stevenage. The projects carried out there were divided into two categories - 'Upstream' and 'Downstream'. 'Upstream' was design and manufacturing and included the development of projects such as HOTOL, Blue Streak and Black Arrow missiles. Whilst most satellites continued to be built there before being completed in Toulouse. 

In the past this also included the Giotto Satellite that intercepted Hailey's comet in 1984 whilst some of the satellites built today photographed weather conditions for onward sale to the farming community. Even the first digital telephones were designed at Stevenage. However although the 'Upstream' business of design and manufacture amounted to a turnover £2 billion p.a., the 'Downstream' business of operations and use including Sky discs and global communication generated even more income - £13 billion p.a.. It was planned to employ up to 100,000 people by 2030 with the aim of obtaining 10% of worldwide business generating sales of £40 billion p.a. but he emphasised that the future lay with Commercial operations particularly with launchers and satellites rather than Government contracts.

He then gave a brief resumé of current projects including Scientific Exploration that continued to be a major factor with the ultimate aim of remaining to get a man to Mars - which would be a one way trip!
The talk was concluded with a resumé of the ongoing work by the Society today to generate more interest at all levels in Space including holding numerous events involving well known celebrities such as astronaut Tim Peake.

The talk concluded with a Q&A session and our speaker was greeted with well deserved and generous applause from an appreciative audience.

Then time for tea and biscuits!