Scorpion rocket engine chamber, early 1950s.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
The Scorpion rocket engine was designed for use on Britain's P1 fighter (later to become the English Electric Lightning), the first British aircraft to break the sound barrier in level flight. A double-chambered version of the engine fitted to a Canberra aircraft enabled a new world aircraft altitude record of 70,301 feet (21,428 metres) to be set on 28th August 1957. This photograph shows a cutaway of a single Scorpion chamber in which the silver pellets and gauze of the catalyst pack can be clearly seen. The silver decomposed the hydrogen peroxide into a stream of oxygen and steam in which the fuel would ignite.