British Interplanetary Society

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British Interplanetary Society
British Interplanetary Society Logo.png
The British Interplanetary Society, South Lambeth Road (geograph 2790848).jpg
Abbreviation BIS
Formation 1933
Legal status Non-profit organisation
Purpose UK space advocacy, promotion of astronautics research
  • 27/29 South Lambeth Road, Vauxhall, London, SW8 1SZ
Region served
UK astronautical engineers
Mark Hempsell
Affiliations International Astronautical Federation
Website BIS

The British Interplanetary Society (BIS), founded in Liverpool in 1933 by Philip E. Cleator,[1] is the oldest space advocacy organisation in the world. Its aim is exclusively to support and promote astronautics and space exploration.


It is a non-profit organisation with headquarters in London and is financed by members' contributions. BIS publishes the academic journal Journal of the British Interplanetary Society and the magazine Spaceflight.

It is situated on South Lambeth Road (A203) near Vauxhall station, and not far from the Secret Intelligence Service building.


The BIS was preceded by the American Interplanetary Society (founded 1930), the German VfR, and Soviet rocket research groups, but unlike these it never became absorbed into a national industry.


When originally formed in January 1933, the BIS aimed not only to promote and raise the public profile of astronautics, but also to undertake practical experimentation into rocketry along similar lines to the organisations above. However early in 1936, the Society discovered that this ambition was thwarted by the Explosives Act of 1875, which prevented any private testing of liquid-fuel rockets in the United Kingdom.

Important proposals for design of space vehicles[edit]

In the late 1930s, the group devised a project of landing people on the Moon by a multistage rocket, each stage of which would have many narrow solid-fuel rockets. Their lander was gumdrop-shaped but otherwise quite like the Lunar Module. As it was considered that the cabin would have to rotate to provide artificial gravity by centrifugal force, BIS member Ralph A. Smith invented the first instrument for space travel — the Coelostat, a navigation mechanism which would cancel out the rotating view. It was R.A. Smith and Harry Ross M.Eng. who were the aerospace visionaries named on the original patent. Smith also authored and illustrated the 1947 book "The Exploration of the Moon" (text by Arthur C. Clarke) which is said to have inspired both John F. Kennedy and Stanley Kubrick. [2]

Sub-orbital spaceflight[edit]

In 1940's, the group had planned for Sub-orbital spaceflight by converted V-2 rocket as Megaroc.[3][4]

Nearest stars[edit]

In 1978, the Society published a starship study called Project Daedalus, which was a detailed feasibility study for a simple unmanned interstellar flyby mission to Barnard's Star using present-day technology and a reasonable extrapolation of near-future capabilities. Daedalus was to have used a pellet driven nuclear-pulse fusion rocket to accelerate to 12 percent of the speed of light.


The latest in this series of far-reaching studies produced the Project Boreas report, which designed a manned station for the Martian North Pole. The report was short-listed for the 2007 Sir Arthur Clarke Awards in the category of Best Written Presentation.


In 2008, the BIS published 'Interplanetary', a history of the society to date.[5]

Awards given by the society[edit]

The science writer Arthur C. Clarke was a well-known former Chairman of the British Interplanetary Society. The society was presented with the first Special Award, from the 2005 Sir Arthur Clarke Awards. This was a gift of Sir Arthur's choice, independent of the judging panel. In 2008, the Society's magazine, Spaceflight, edited by Clive Simpson, was the winner of the award for Best Space Reporting.

Charles Chilton joined the society before writing and producing the popular science-fiction radio trilogy Journey Into Space.[6]

See also[edit]


Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 51°29′03″N 0°07′22″W / 51.4843°N 0.1228°W / 51.4843; -0.1228