1960s

1961

  • Skylark rocket launch from Woomera in South Australia puts first Leicester-built instrument into space. Start of a research programme studying the link between X-radiation from the Sun and radio propagation in the Earth's atmosphere.

1962

  • Ariel 1
    Ariel 1 satellite (image: NASA)
    April: Launch of first British satellite, Ariel 1, from Cape Canaveral (now Kennedy Space Center) on a NASA Delta rocket. Payload included solar X-ray detectors developed at the University.
  • Discovery by US team of first cosmic X-ray source, Scorpius X-1, heralding the start of a new branch of astronomy in which Leicester was to become a major player. (The 2002 Nobel Prize for Physics was awarded to Riccardo Giacconi who led that pioneering effort.)
  • July: Solar X-ray detectors on Ariel 1 'killed', as a result of radiation damage caused by USAF nuclear test in the atmosphere over the South Pacific. (Such tests were subsequently banned, although not only for damaging our equipment!)

1964

  • European Space Research Organisation (forerunner of ESA) formed, with ambitious programme of space science. UK initially the major scientific and financial contributor.

1965

  • Skylark-borne camera obtains first X-ray images of the Sun.

1967

  • Leicester Skylark launched from Woomera carries out the first survey of the Southern Hemisphere sky for cosmic X-ray sources.
  • ESRO 2b
    ESRO 2b satellite (image: NASA)
    ESRO-2, Europe's first space science satellite, with Leicester solar X-ray equipment on board, fails as USAF Scout rocket malfunctions at Vandenberg AFB launch.
  • NASA launch Orbiting Solar Observatory (OSO)-4, an advanced mission to study the Sun, with X-ray equipment from Leicester. This launch began an unbroken period of 30 years' duration, with Leicester-built X-ray instruments operating in orbit.

1968

1969

  • NASA launch OSO-5, a further science mission to study the Sun. On board is an X-ray telescope from Leicester which, for the next six years, provides the international scientific community with daily images of solar activity. This research was the fore-runner of 'solar weather forecasting', now a major international research effort.