Waxwing (rocket motor)


Black Arrow satellite deployment, with Waxwing upper stage.
Waxwing seen without its engine nozzle

Waxwing was a British solid rocket motor used for apogee kick as the 3rd (upper) stage of the Black Arrow satellite launch vehicles. Waxwing was used to successfully place the Prospero X-3 satellite into low Earth orbit on 28 October 1971, Britain's only satellite launch on an indigenously-developed launch vehicle.

Another use of Waxwing was to increase the velocity of test re-entry vehicles on Black Knight during tests for the Blue Streak missile.[1]

Design and development

Design was by the Rocket Propulsion Establishment (RPE) at Westcott and it was manufactured by Bristol Aerojet.[2] The casing was spherical and the propellant grain used an internal star profile to control the initial burn rate.


  • Thrust: 29.4 kN[3][4]
  • Specific impulse: 2700 m/s (278 s) [3]
  • Burn time: 28 s
    40 seconds [4][contradictory]
  • Weight:[3]
    • Gross mass: 397 kg (875 lb)
    • Unfuelled mass: 87 kg (192 lb)
  • Dimensions:[5]
    • Diameter: 28 in (0.71 m)
    • Overall length: 52 in (1.3 m)
    • Nozzle length: 22 in (0.56 m)
    • Nozzle diameter: 18 in (0.46 m)


  1. ^ "Waxwing rocket motor".
  2. ^ "Point of the Arrow" FLIGHT International, 11 November 1971
  3. ^ a b c "Black Arrow-3". astronautix.com.
  4. ^ a b Black Arrow exhibit, Science Museum, London
  5. ^ "Waxwing dimensional drawing". Space UK.
  • Astronautix Page