Oral history of British science

Parkinson, Bob (Part 12 of 15). An Oral History of British Science.

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  • Subjects

    Aeronautical Engineering; Space Science and Engineering

  • Recording date


  • Recording locations

    The British Library

  • Interviewees

    Parkinson, Bob, 1941- (speaker, male)

  • Interviewers

    Lean, Thomas (speaker, male)

  • Abstract

    Part 12: Remarks on: Frank Miles breaking HOTOL story for ITN, embarrassment of RR managers for whom it was a surprise; public relations and engineering and the idea of 2 hour London-Sidney [02:45] Comments on use of CAPS: creation of a series of computer models from contributions from different groups; anecdote about an unusual model produced by a CAPS glitch; Steve Kemble's trajectory program and problems understanding working of CAPS. [07:45] Comments on: problems with HOTOL, later solved by AB on Skylon; critical period in 1989, when HOTOL project manager died and funding ran short. [12:00] Description of HOTOL problems: control issues, configuration of HOTOL and centre of gravity; AB solving problems on Skylon. [16:00] Story starting with a 1989 call from Foyle Aviation, leading to BP and Steve Furness visiting Russian Antonov 225 Buryan shuttle carrier at Paris Air Show to discuss possibility of launching HOTOL from the Antonov. [19:40] Comments on subsequent attempt at collaboration with Russia: Ivan Yates visit to Russia in c.1990; Russian interest in HOTOL and similarities with MAKS space plane; story about Ivan Yates, PC, Peter Finch, Jack Leeming and BP visiting Moscow in 1990: BP being tested by Russian expert Gleb Lozino-Lozinskiy; setting up of collaboration programme, led by BP with Eric Web as support from Wharton; [26:00] ESA support; mutual respect relationship with Russians; BP and junior Dave Healas visiting Russia frequently; project petering out due to problems with ESA and BP's management up to 1994. [30:55] Comments on opposition to reusable launchers: French preoccupation with Ariane 5; HOTOL potential to disrupt European launcher business, paced around capacity of rocket group at Vernon, France. [34:45] Comments on: end of HOTOL; studies with ESA and Germans; BP feelings when work was suspended; European reluctance to work with Russians; political consideration in HOTOL cancellation. [38:10] Discussion of CAPS: reduced design to a collection of sums; produced integrated design from a number of inputs; old piece of software with own programming language; output in form of numbers. [44:30] Comments on: working arrangements of different groups using CAPS; BP speciality in economics; developing working relationships between teams of different cultures, difficulties over different units and definitions; [50:40] long lasting relationships with individuals worked with before. Comments on HOTOL: difficulties upsetting an established process, problems with secrecy; discovering common ground between HOTOL and Hermes teams; opposition in UK over fear that Britain would have to pay for whole programme; competition for funding with Airbus; [54:50] interim HOTOL achievable easily; HOTOL probably evolving into Skylon; anticipating basing in Kurua. [57:40] Comments on: BAe space communication group financial problems in early 1992; BP and Steve Kemble escaping redundancy due to ESA funding, unbeknownst to manager; losing most of team, except Dave Healas; misguided specialisation in communication satellites; underbidding by Hughes; slow recovery after 1992.

  • Description

    Interview with aerospace engineer Dr Bob Parkinson.

  • Related transcripts

    Dr Bob Parkinson interviewed by Tom Lean: full transcript of the interview

  • Related links

    Visit this interviewee's page on the 'Voices of Science' web resource

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