If you tell enough stories, perhaps the moral will show up.


Physical Security

I would have said there was nowhere in the UK, certainly in England, where you could run rocket engines for an orbital lifter without it being obvious to everyone around. It's all too small, and rockets are so very, very obvious.

Sucks to me then, because from the late 50's up until 1972, Saunders-Roe in Cowes managed strict secrecy while test firing assembled Black Knight and Black Arrow rockets right next to a tourist attraction on the Isle of Wight! Tucked away in a fold of Tennyson Down above the Needles Battery was a complete static test rig, with exhaust and cooling steam directed out to sea high above the cliffs. Less than a mile from the archetypical 50's tourist resort of Alum Bay, they kept their secret with nothing more than a wire fence, MoD police and a slightly deceptive line of sight.

Actually, there's one other thing you can only appreciate if you visit the site. The fantastic wind may not be louder than a rocket engine, but it would disperse it utterly.

This is all very fine, and the exhibition in the chalk bunkers of the new battery is well worth a look. But you have to be a real nerd to know that in Moonraker -- published in 1955 -- Ian Fleming had Hugo Drax, his nazi revanchiste, building and launching the rockets to destroy London from silos in the chalk cliffs between Dover and Folkstone. Fleming's intelligence contacts were the best: he must have known. Did the S-R security officer have kittens? Were there hard words exchanged? Was James Bond, of all people, responsible for a breach in national security?

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