The countdown is on to a ‘Rocket Week’ at the National Trust’s Needles New Battery on the Isle of Wight.

The activities are to celebrate the anniversary of the launch of Prospero, the first British satellite launched after rocket testing on Highdown and the New Battery, 50 years ago on 28th October 1971.

Visitors can explore the underground exhibition rooms at the New Battery and learn all about the secret rocket testing that took place there plus there will be colouring and puzzles for children.

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On actual 50th anniversary, on Thursday 28th October there will be a celebration of the launch of the Prospero satellite by the Black Arrow rocket, with craft activities for children including satellite model making using recycling material, and one of the original Highdown Test Site engineers will be on sight to be quizzed on what it was like working on the early British space programme.

Meanwhile along the headland at The Needles Old Battery, overlooking the famous Needles rocks and lighthouse, families can take part in the fort’s October activity, a Shipwrecks Trail with smugglers clues.

Jo-Anne King, Welcome Manager at The Needles Old and New Battery says:

“The history of the testing of the space rockets at the Needles is fascinating. It’s amazing that at the time the Isle of Wight was at the forefront of space technology, and that the Prospero satellite is still circulating the earth 50 years on.

“Prospero is special as it was the first and so far, the only British satellite to launch on a British-built rocket.”

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The New Battery will be open 23rd to 30th October 2021, 11:00 to 16:00. Normal admission applies to entry to the Old Battery although entry for National Members is free.

Entry to the New Battery is free for all visitors. Further information along with more detail on the rocket testing is available on the National Trust website at

For more information on all the autumn activities and National Trust places on the Isle of Wight head online to

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Clive Thomas
Clive Thomas
14 days ago

Ah! Halcyon days. I well remember working at Highdown Rocket site during my BHC apprentice ship. I wish I could be there.

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