Letter: Britain left behind in space

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The Independent Online
Sir: The article by Charles Arthur ("Spaceship of future will run on fresh air", 28 March) on Nasa's projected Hyper-X space vehicle, once again highlights Britain's current ineptitude when it comes to aerospace technology.

For 20-odd years after the Second World War, Britain led the world in the development of aero-engines, from the early turbines of Sir Frank Whittle, through to the unique Rolls-Royce Pegasus that first took to the air in 1960 powering the P 1127 "Jump Jet" - the forerunner of the Harrier.

Since then, brilliant engineers and designers, such as Alan Bond and David Ashford, have been totally frustrated by an apparent lack of interest from successive governments and an absence of financial support from a private sector that is only interested in short-term profit. Such an attitude has resulted in Britain falling well behind the United States and even France in export sales of aerospace hardware.

Whilst the work-force at Rolls-Royce continues to produce excellent jet engines for the world's airlines, their pioneering spirit seems to have deserted them and, as Charles Arthur reports, the next generation of engine designs - incorporating new technology - will be emerging from American factories.