21st Nov, 2017

Honoured rocket scientist reveals at University of Warwick how Dan Dare inspired him

Les Reid 27th Jul, 2017 Updated: 27th Jul, 2017

‘IT’S not rocket science’, as the saying goes, as to where those in the highly respected profession get their inspiration from – as Alan Bond revealed upon receiving an honorary degree at the University of Warwick.

One of the UK’s leading rocket scientists, he was motivated to take up rocket engineering when in 1953 he read an episode of the comic strip Dan Dare – called Operation Saturn, published in the Eagle comic in 1953.

He soon joined up with amateur rocket enthusiasts, including a group in Leamington, and he built and launched hundreds of rockets as a teenager.

Parts of the rocket engines he helped develop were manufactured in the Rolls Royce workshops in Parkside in Coventry, and tested at the company’s facilities at Ansty.

Now he is leading the way in developing space travel.

Mr Bond received an honorary degree of Doctor of Science last Tuesday (July 18), and explained the numerous key Coventry and Warwickshire influences on his career and life.

During his time in the region, Alan’s son was born in the then Walsgrave Hospital (now part of University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust).

The young Alan’s interest in rockets brought him to the attention of leading UK rocket engineer Val Cleaver who hired him to work on the engines powering the UK’s Blue Streak missile and Black Arrow launch vehicle. Parts of these engines were manufactured and tested by Rolls Royce in the region.

The university website adds: “He first worked on liquid rocket engines, principally the RZ2 (liquid oxygen / kerosene) and the RZ20 (liquid oxygen / liquid hydrogen) at Rolls Royce, and he was also involved with flight trials of the UK’s Blue Streak satellite launch rocket at Woomera in Australia.

“He also worked for around two decades on the UK Atomic Energy Authority’s Culham Laboratory on nuclear fusion, on the JET and RFX nuclear research projects.

“He also explored how to use fusion to enable interplanetary space travel.

“And he was the leading author of the report on the Project Daedalus interstellar, a fusion powered starship proposal, which was published by the British Interplanetary Society.

“In the 1980s, he was one of the creators of the HOTOL spaceplane project, and he brought a key jet engine design that he had invented to the HOTOL project.

“In 1989, Alan Bond was one of the founders of Reaction Engines Ltd. REL is developing a single-stage orbital spaceplane called Skylon, and other advanced vehicles including a hypersonic airliner concept as part of the European LAPCAT programme.

“The projects have involved the practical development of hydrogen fuelled, pre-cooled air breathing rocket engines, most notably, an engine called SABRE (Synergic Air Breathing Rocket Engine).

“The aim being to create a vehicle which can take off like a normal aircraft and fly into space.”

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