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tigger 04-07-2014 09:40

Rocket Propulsion Establishment
It's quiet here so another non-NW visit

I know very little about RAF Westcott or it's subsequent role in the development of rocket motors. It has had many many different names between 1946, Rocket Propulsion Establishment to 2014, Westcott Venture Park.

It seems to have been built to a standard wartime class A design but of more interest now are the many facilities built for rocket motor development. The UK, with the Germans, lead the development of rockets after the war yet like so many technological innovations we din't use that knowledge...first we gave it all to the Americans and secondly Tony Benn said there was no future in technology and set the country back fifty years. Westcott is still used for rocket motor research though nowadays it is small private companies that lead the way. There will be no pictures of their facilities or equipment shown on here.

The first few rocket testing buildings were removed long ago but the few period photos that remain show that we used cameras to remotely monitor the tests. With the arrival of the German scientists (who were in some ways much further forward than us in rocket motor development) new test cells were built and these used the Germans preferred method of direct visual monitoring......until an explosion caused the death of several important scientists. After this monitoring was via protected shelters and mirrors until modern CCTV systems were introduced.

Many of the remaining sites ( A, B, C, D, E, K1, K2, P) are listed, some are still in use and K2 has recently been surveyed to see if it can be put back into use.

First (probably) test cell. Note the camera

A, B, C and D sites. Built around 1947. Oldest surviving test cells (this is the type in which the fatal explosion occurred). These are in two identical groups but used for different purposes. The photos are a mixture from the two groups.

E Site. Didn't have time to visit. An example of it's use was development of the Bristol Siddeley Stentor engine for the Blue Steel project.

A horizontal 1/6 scale sale model was built for silo testing of Blue Steel. A few of the concrete sections remain (there may be others elsewhere on the site but none are in their original location near the centrifuge test bed and temperature controlled buildings.

More to follow

tigger 08-07-2014 16:47

F site was used for various testing such as firing in vacuum and firing under water. The control rooms are in the building to the left. The building on the right housed a workshop and the vacuum pumps.

NorthMancBeds 01-08-2014 17:59

Top one.

tigger 03-08-2014 21:57

A few more.

P site. Built in 1948. There are two sections to P site. P1, foreground, is heavily overgrown. P2 is the the building in the background and less overgrown. Both were involved in testing liquid propellant rocket motors eg. for Blue Streak (which also powered Europa 1). Also involved in Project Chevaline to improve the Polaris missile system.

P1 and P2 started life to the same design but P2 was developed in two later stages for other work.

The initial design was a steel pile shell with concrete well and concrete exhaust channel. Most of the features can still be seen though the exhaust channel was partially back-filled with concrete (and probably some of the hexagonal silo sections). The second stage added the concrete tower when the site was used for testing RZ2 motors. Eventually the top section was added and drop testing of motors was carried out. The control room is a hardened concrete bunker protected by blast walls and earth bunds. It is also overgrown.

tigger 03-08-2014 21:59

K site. These were used for testing solid fuel rockets. K1 is a vertical test rig and K2 is horizontal

The control rooms and workshops served both sections.

K2. Built in the late 1950's

K1. Built 1967-68 and used until the mid 1990's

The cylindrical steel platform was for mounting a load cell.

Morrisey 10-08-2014 10:59

Nicely captured. Wouldn't mind a look around here myself.

tigger 10-08-2014 13:10

Last few:

Magazines. Built in the WWII RAF bomb store area. This is a live magazine with sensitive contents so don't expect anything special in the photos.

Centrifuge well. Not yet managed to find any information about this except that the rocket motors being tested spun around very quickly!

I took several hundred photos and hope this small selection gives an idea of what is still left. I doubt if I actually saw 25% of what is left of the rocket propulsion test facilities and I generally ignored the WWII airfield remains

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