Satellite in the Sky 1956

The British launch the world's first orbital vehicle. Their military sends a super-bomb along, which goes wrong and threatens the crew and a stowaway.

The Cast

Kieron Moore-Commander Michael Hayden
Lois Maxwell-Kim Hamilton
Donald Wolfit-Professor Merrity
Bryan Forbes-Jimmy Wheeler
Jimmy Hanley-Larry Noble
Barry Keegan-Lefty Blake
Donald Gray-Captain Ross
Thea Gregory-Barbara Noble

The Director: Paul Dickson
The Writers: John Mather, J.T. McIntosh, Edith Dell
Music by: Albert Elms

Film Trivia

The delta wing aircraft in the opening minutes of this movie was the long-range British heavy bomber the Vulcan. The Vulcan was in use from 1952-1984 and saw service in the Falkland war.
The Test Aircraft used to test the fuel is a Folland Aircraft Co. Midge the prototype for their 2 seater Gnat.
Special effects director Wally Veevers also worked on 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964), and Superman (1978).
Lois Maxwell, who plays the feisty female reporter, is best known as Miss Moneypenny in the James Bond films. Her macho male lead, Kieron Moore, played the bully in a small Irish town in Darby O'Gill and the Little People (1959).
Britain's first color science fiction film.
This early (1956) sci-fi and early jet-aviation film uses an interesting mish-mash of aircraft footage to tell the story. As both a sci-fi and aviation buff, I thought the film was very entertaining.

In the opening scenes, we see the mid-fuselage-mounted delta-wing, heavy, large, long-range, multiple-crew, 4-engined Avro Vulcan, the same large aircraft high-jacked by SPECTRE in the James Bond film "Thunderball". The Vulcan had a prominently clean vertical tail with no elevators, as pitch control was performed by control surfaces on the extremely rearward trailing edge of the delta wing. The engine intakes are also prominent at the very inward portion of the wing's leading edge, next to the fuselage. These are very certain Vulcan recognition features.

The blue "Sky Test" or "Fuel Test" aircraft in the following early minutes of the film is the high-fuselage-mounted swept-wing Folland Midge, a much smaller, single-seat, single-engine aircraft. The Midge was used as the early prototype for the highly-successful follow-on Folland Gnat.

As the Sky Test Midge begins taxi for take-off at 10:30, a Gloster Meteor can readily be seen parked on the tarmac in the close background. The Meteor was an early jet-powered aircraft that saw use in the Second World War. It had a straight wing at mid-fuselage, and had two jet engines, one mounted in a prominent and recognizable pod under each wing. The vertical tail was oblong and forward-projected, with a mid-tail-mounted elevator. The nose gear is very forward-mounted, at the very tip of the nose. These are very certain recognition features for the Meteor.

The Midge is featured through about 14:00 during the Sky Test, but because the Midge was strictly subsonic, a different aircraft had to be featured at 14:20 to 14:25 for the "routine aerobatics" passes down the runway. The aircraft shown in the low pass is certainly a different airframe than the Midge, as tell-tale trans-sonic pressure waves can be seen piling up on the aircraft's flight surfaces, condensing the moisture in the air. The Midge, being subsonic, could not have been flown fast enough to produce these waves. The Midge is dutifully shown again on the landing rollout beginning at 15:50, after the aerobatics passes are concluded.

The aircraft in the aerobatics passes seems to have some recognition features in common with the Meteor, but is different in other details. On the plus side, the tail has a mid-tail elevator, but instead of oblong and projecting forward like the Meteor's, the tail is swept back at a rakish angle. It also has a long, trim empennage behind the cockpit leading to the tail, as does the Meteor.

On the minus, the wings are swept, but are not delta. The engine intakes appear inboard on the wing's leading edge, next to the fuselage, similar to the Vulcan's. No engine pods are visible under the wings, as on the Meteor. The aircraft is not large enough to be a Vulcan, and the Vulcan has no elevator on the vertical tail, as the Meteor and this aircraft do. This aircraft makes three more passes at and over the camera before the Midge is shown in the landing as noted above.

The aerobatics pass aircraft is not a Meteor, nor is it a Vulcan. After a little more digging into early transonic and supersonic British aircraft, I found the Hawker Hunter, which does meet all the recognition features for the aerobatics pass footage. Hawker Hunter standing in for the Midge it is!

Besides a great historical mish-mash of early jet aircraft, an interesting collection of aerodromes was also used in filming. Any identifying information provided for these airfields would be appreciated.