Roy Dommett

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Roy Dommett
Born Roy Dommett
(1933-06-25) 25 June 1933 (age 81)
Southampton, England
Residence Hampshire, England
Nationality British
Fields Rocket science
Institutions Royal Aircraft Establishment, Farnborough
Space Department, MOD
Defence Evaluation and Research Agency
Alma mater Itchen Grammar School
University of Bristol
Known for Black Knight (rocket)
Blue Streak (missile)
Black Arrow
Trident (missile)
UK Chief Missile Scientist
Notable awards Commander of the Order of the British Empire
Royal Aeronautical Society Silver Medal

Roy Dommett CBE (born 25 June 1933) is a retired engineer and rocket scientist, and formerly the United Kingdom's Chief Missile Scientist, who for many years led the United Kingdom's research and development of both nuclear rockets and space rockets for the delivery of satellites into orbit. He is now retired, and lives in Hampshire.

Early life and family[edit]

Roy Leonard Dommett, a descendant of an old East Devon Family, was born on 25 June 1933, at Southampton. Educated at Itchen Grammar School and Bristol University, gaining a first in Aeronautical Engineering in 1954. Employed by the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough from 1953 to 2000, while it becamse DRA and DERA, but retired before it divided into Qinetiq and Dstl.

He married in 1956 to Marguerite Patricia Dawson. They had met at school. They had seven sons and one daughter. Dommett's first experience with rocket technology was witnessing the arrival of a V-2 at Southampton. His family had links with the aviation industry (his uncle worked at the Supermarine works in Southampton on the Spitfire).

Pioneering developments[edit]

Roy Dommett initially specialised in aerodynamic heating and supersonic flows, he worked on the re-entry vehicle design for Blue Streak, and was more deeply involved in the design and analysis of the Black Knight re-entry requirements. Whilst in the Space Department he was the British member of the ELDO Aerodynamics Committee on EUROPA and a contributor to the design of the Black Arrow.

He moved to the weapons department in 1967 for the Polaris improvement studies which culminated in KHG793/Chevaline in 1970 with responsibility for the new delivery system, and was given a Special Merit promotion in 1980. He led on some outstanding UK issues with Trident II and then on the coutner measure aspects in the UK contributions to the US SDI studies. He attempted to initiate a number of small studies that would have developed UK system understanding, but funding was not available. In all, he contributed in some way to 32 projects. For ten years he was a member of a Research Advisory Council supporting the Chief Scientific Officer.

Chief Missile Scientist[edit]

Roy Dommett worked at both the RAE and the secret missile testing station of Saunders-Roe on the Isle of Wight, where the United Kingdom's first indigenous rocketry system Black Knight was developed. Dommett was designated 'Chief Missile Scientist' on the key projects Black Knight (nuclear rocket), Blue Streak (nuclear missile),[1] and Black Arrow (satellite launcher). Despite the enormous success of all these projects, all were later abandoned on grounds of expense. To date the United Kingdom is the only country to have successfully developed and then abandoned a satellite launch capability.[2] All other countries to have developed such capability have retained it either through their own space programme, or in the case of France through its involvement in the Ariane programme.[2] The nuclear missile programme was abandoned in favour of buying in the American Polaris system; Dommett was the Chief Missile Scientist on the programme of developing Polaris for British use.

Later working life[edit]

Roy Dommett has, in more recent years, voiced the regret and upset felt in the British rocket industry by its professionals, following the decision of the British Government to cut funding, and terminate the research.[3] Following the cessation of the British independent space programme, and independent rocket development, Dommett continued to hold a senior role in British defence. From 1982 he was Chief Scientist for the Special Weapons Department, and then a Principal Consultant on Ballistic Missiles for the United Kingdom Ministry of Defence's Defence Evaluation and Research Agency, after his formal retirement.

Dommett is almost unique in the UK in having begun work on Black Knight and Blue Streak and continued his career working on Polaris, Black Arrow, the Polaris Improvement programme and Trident, which together constitute all of the major UK missile programmes.


For his pioneering research and development work, Roy Dommett received the Royal Aeronautical Society Silver Medal in 1991. Later the same year he was created a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE). In 2004 the British Rocketry Oral History Programme Conference met in Godalming and made a special 'lifetime achievement' presentation to Dommett, including an evening's biographical presentation through the eyes of family members and professional colleagues.[4]

Morris dancing[edit]

Besides being honoured for his groundbreaking scientific work, Roy Dommett has long been hailed one of the leading figures in the British Morris Dancing tradition, and is a touring lecturer on its history and techniques.[5] He is a much-published author on the subject.[6] He was a founder of the Farnborough Morris in 1954, and danced by invitation with the Traditional Abingdon side from 1960 to 1972. He ran a series of successful instructionals at Halsway Manor, Somerset, at Boys Town, St Athlan, Barry and then at Laines Barn, Wantage. In 1976 he worked as a musician with a new generation of women morris sides including; Fleur de Lys, Goldalming, Minden Rose at Alton and latterly Fleet Morris. He has also toured and instructed in the USA, Australia and New Zealand.

Although he is well-known through British morris dancing circles, few of his fellow morris-dancers have been aware of his professional commitments, until very recently the passage of time has allowed some details to become public.

On his retirement from active Morris Dancing a cake was baked in the form of a life-sized model of Dommett's head, which remains a talking-point in British Morris circles.[7] He still occasionally performs on the accordion.[8] His work in the field was recognised by the award of the Jubilee Medal and then the Gold Badge of the English Folk Dance and Song Society. Despite over ten years of very poor health, he is now attempting to return to summarising and passing on his knowledge of morris.


  1. ^ See notes here.
  2. ^ a b Wheeler, Brian (2004-01-12). "Britain's first space pioneers". Magazine. BBC News Online. Retrieved 2009-03-09. 
  3. ^ Dommett is quoted on the BBC website here.
  4. ^ A brief report is published here.
  5. ^ Many of his lecture notes are extant and available.
  6. ^ See for example.
  7. ^ Bring me the Head of Roy Dommett, an on-line article, may be read [1] here.
  8. ^ Video: Performance 14 July 2009 on YouTube.