Untapped potential of rocket-powered aircraft decades late and still waiting.
50 years ago today the prototype of the supersonic SR.53 rocket-powered interceptor aircraft
made its first test flight at RAE Boscombe Downs, England. Over the following year, the two prototypes flew 42 times, including supersonically, but after an unexplained crash the project was cancelled. The planned function of high-altitude interception was fulfilled by the "Lightning" aircraft which was being developed at much the same time. Although the Lightnings were much loved by pilots, and became famous as world record-holders for high-speed climb, they could not of course leave the atmosphere as a rocket-powered vehicle could have.