By Francis Spufford
A rapturous background of British engineering, a brilliant love-letter to quiet males in pullovers, Backroom Boys tells the tale of ways this kingdom misplaced its commercial culture and bought again anything else. 'A very good accomplishment - Backroom Boys sharply conjures up a misplaced global of Dan Dare, glance and research and Meccano, and is going directly to express us how that international used to be by no means misplaced: that it's, in reality, the key historical past of today.' Ken MacLeod 'Unreservedly marvellous ...Francis Spufford is the Tom Wolfe of expertise journalism.' concentration 'Provides start-to-finish entertainment ...[Spufford] could make the center bounce just by detailing what engineers do with gentle metal or carbon fibre.' Sunday occasions 'I don't need to fake that Backroom Boys is ideal; it is simply as with regards to it as makes no difference.' day-by-day Telegraph 'The guy writes like a dream - expert, clean, racy prose ...You would not imagine booklet describing the autumn and upward push of British applied sciences seeing that 1945 should be unputdownable, yet Spufford exhibits it may be done.' parent
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Additional info for The Backroom Boys: The Secret Return of the British Boffin
A satellite industry needed someone, somewhere to be building launchers, but they did not have to share a nationality. In fact, the technology of a launcher and the technology of a satellite were virtually unrelated. One was turbopumps and volatile liquids; the other was solar cells and micro-relays. So the satellite makers did not have much to learn from Black Arrow, and over the thirty years since, when Britain has built no launchers at all, they have thrived or failed entirely according to their skill at negotiating the changing conditions of their own industry.
I regard these small rockets’, he said, ‘in very much the same way I regard simulators and wind tunnels …’ Black Arrow was an ‘experimental tool’ for the nascent British satellite industry. It existed, said Sir Morien, so that they could test ‘small bits of experimental hardware’ in a zero-g environment. It was certainly true that Black Arrow was only good for research: in the late 1960s a working communications satellite massed at least 300 kg and needed to be put into an energy-expensive geostationary orbit.
Black Arrow could not afford the weight of back-ups. Instead, it was constructed for ‘minimum criticality’, which means trying to design out everything that could go wrong. You think through all the possible catastrophes and then, one by one, prevent the sequences of events that would lead up to each of them. Ideally, the only sequence left is the one in which events run just as planned. 56 per cent of useful cargo. So much for the how of Black Arrow. The why is more elusive. The official rationale for the project begged more questions than it answered.