Oral history of British science

Dommett, Roy (Part 7 of 19). An Oral History of British Science.

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  • Subjects

    Aeronautical Engineering

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  • Recording locations

    Interviewee’s home, Fleet

  • Interviewees

    Dommett, Roy, 1933- (speaker, male)

  • Interviewers

    Lean, Thomas (speaker, male)

  • Abstract

    Part 7: Remarks on team work: incompatibility of Phil Acass ex-army attitude at RAE, meetings in corridor, differing cultures of establishments; working with Fort Halstead, using a shock tunnel, managed by Mr Bailey, for work on Polaris; a ballistic range in a vacuum chamber for work on detecting ballistic missiles. [mic crackle] [06:10] Comments on: sensor equipment, a radar facility at Orford Ness, which could detect Russian trains; drawbacks of ionospheric reflections; facilities at Bedford; establishment atmosphere, similarity to universities, survival of wartime attitudes, change under James Lighthill in the 1960s; financing; difference to Qinetiq. [11:00] Remarks on working with other establishments: committees, informal meetings, Chevaline organisation needing its own calender. [13:30] Short discussion of interview. Remarks: busyness of Blue Streak period; having lots of jobs to do at the same time; Harold Robinson's analogue computer. [17:00] Remarks on: Farnborough in 1950s, transport and [mic noise] unplanned layout of establishment, workshops, test facilities, postwar hopes for National Aeronautical Establishment at Bedford; limited facilities in the UK, ARA aeronautical research company, lack of hypersonic wind tunnel, using Imperial, Southampton and Oxford Universities' facilities for Chevaline. [22:00] Remarks on: four jet phenomenon causing extra thrust due to base flow, exploited on Black Arrow but only later scientifically understood; [24:50] Black Knight: designed by Harold Robinson [mic crackle] as a miniature Blue Streak; work of Saunders Roe on cancelled rocket interceptors; TSR2 cancellation and limited capabilities of Tornado. [27:35] Comments on Skybolt: launch options, RAE contributions, problems, [short pause, loud cough], Aldermaston warhead work for Skybolt, later used on WE177 and Polaris; RAE desire to add decoys to Skybolt, thwarted decoy work on Black Knight [mic noise] [32:50] Remarks on: RD contributions to Black Knight, base flow problems, thermal protection, experiment design, consulted by other groups; service interest in Skybolt and Polaris [loud coughing]; cancellation of Skybolt, Polaris information, Nassau agreement and technical issues with choice of Polaris A3 [mic crackle].[37:05] Remarks on Polaris warheads: [Closed between 37:53-38:00] [mic crackle], Anglicisation of warheads, conservatism of nuclear tests, single point safety on warhead, Ordnance Board rejection of American explosive. [44:00] Remarks on: 1963 RAE study on an independent UK equivalent to Polaris; UK reluctance to switch to solid propellant; RAE hopes for use of Blue Streak as a satellite launcher, Black Knight based deterrent scheme, documents in National Archives; James Lighthill and Harold Robinson report after Nassau agreement warning of Soviet ABM danger leading to HR169 decoy feasibility studies, mentions working with Lockheed, ESAMS, General Electric [GE] [mic crackle]. [49:15] Remarks on change of Soviet ABM to exp-atmospheric interceptor: interpretation of secret photography of ABM during parade in Red Square, Lieutenant Commander Ashmore's study; consequences for British plans, radiation effects on re-entry vehicle and warhead, unsuccessful enquires to the USA, opposition from Solly Zuckerman to new nuclear weapons [mic crackle]. [52:35] Remarks on British response to Soviet ABM development: USA briefing on Antelope modifications to Polaris for Vic Macklen, Fred East and Newley of Aldermaston; [mic crackle] study by Peter Jones at Aldermaston; possible options of hardening re-entry bodies or separating them further, decoys; 1969 paper to the Cabinet on options and response by the Treasury.

  • Description

    Interview with rocket scientist and aeronautical engineer Roy Dommett

  • Related transcripts

    Roy Dommett interviewed by Dr Thomas Lean: full transcript of the interview

  • Related links

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

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