The European Launcher Development Organisation (ELDO) was a multinational consortium formed in the 1960s to build an indigenous European space launch vehicle, Europa.
In April 1960 the British government cancelled its Blue Streak missile programme. Planned to be the first stage of a satellite launcher its development was almost complete. Britain proposed a collaboration with other European countries to build a three-stage launcher capable of placing a one-ton payload into low Earth orbit. Consisting of Belgium, Britain, France, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands, with Australia as an associate member. Preliminary work began in 1962 and ELDO was formally signed into existence in 1964.
Britain with Blue Streak became the first stage of the European launch vehicle with France providing the Coralie second stage and Germany the third. Italy worked on the satellite project, the Netherlands and Belgium concentrated on tracking and telemetry systems and Australia supplied the launch site.
The first ten launches took place at Woomera in Australia and were designated with an F. The project was divided into three phases:
- Phase 1 (1964 - 1965) - Launches F1 - F3, the Blue Streak first stage launches northwest towards Talgarno.
- Phase 2 (1966 - 1967) - Launches F4 - F6/1 & F6/2, launches with satellite north towards Simpson Desert in the Northern Territory.
- Phase 3 (1967 - 1970) - Launches F7 - F9, launches with satellite north reaching orbit. However the satellite failed to orbit at any stage.
A planned F10 launch never went ahead.
However, the Woomera launch site was not suitable for putting satellites into geosynchronous orbit, and in 1966 it was decided to move to the French site of Kourou in South America. F11 was fired from here in November 1971, but the failure of the autopilot caused the vehicle to break up. The launch of F12 was postponed whilst a project review was carried out, which led to the decision to abandon the Europa design.
In 1974 the ELDO was merged with the European Space Research Organisation to form the European Space Agency.
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