Val Cleaver

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Arthur Valentine Cleaver OBE FRAeS (14 February 1917 – 16 September 1977) was a distinguished British rocket engineer.

Early life[edit]

He was born at Conway in Wales to Percy and Mildred Cleaver. From the age of 11 he became fascinated by space. For three years from 1931 he attended Acton Technical College. He joined the British Interplanetary Society (BIS) in 1937, aged 20.

Rolls-Royce RZ2, which he was responsible for


De Havilland[edit]

In 1935, aged 18, he joined the Propeller Division of De Havilland. He later became Chief Project Engineer of the de Havilland Propeller Company. He moved back to de Havilland where Frank Halford was Technical Director of their engine company. He was commissioned by Frank Halford to conduct a study into rocket engines, and their (unknown) capabilities.

In the early 1950s he oversaw the development of the Sprite rocket engine.

He became friends with Maurice Brennan, the Chief Designer at Saunders-Roe, who designed the SR.53; this was the first rocket-powered British aircraft.

Rolls Royce[edit]

In 1956 he handed in his notice at De Havilland and became Chief Rocket Propulsion Engineer of Rolls-Royce's new rocket engine division. Under his guidance the RZ-2 rocket engine was developed, an advanced engine for its time. For the work on this engine he was awarded the OBE.

He worked with Rocketdyne.

Personal life[edit]

In 1955 he argued that photographs taken from space of the Earth would transform people's psychological outlook. In 1957 at the International Congress of Astronautics he said that, in aviation, predictions ran behind actual events.

He died aged 60. His funeral was held on 6 October 1977 in Enfield.


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