UCL Department of Space and Climate Physics


Our Heritage


Our Beginnings:

1 September 1966 – The Mullard Space Science Laboratory came into being at Holmbury House, Holmbury St Mary, Surrey, UK.

3 May 1967 – Official Opening of MSSL by Dr F.E. Jones FRS, Managing Director of Mullard Ltd.

29 May 1967 – First launch of MSSL hardware on ESRO-IIA, launch failure

8 Aug 1967 – First Skylark(3) rocket launch from Woomera with MSSL hardware, Solar Physics.

18 Oct 1967 – first successful satellite launch with MSSL hardware, OSO 4, the two MSSL instruments in the wheel were, one measuring the total flux of soft X-rays from the whole Sun, the other measuring the total flux of 304Å (He II) radiation.

1st Oct 1993 – MSSL becomes the Department of Space and Climate Physics, UCL. Prior to this it was a group within the Department of Physics and Astronomy.

The first administrator at MSSL was Eric Dorling who wrote a comprehensive, albeit personal history of MSSL in his Reminisences. 

MSSL Historical documents  

MSSL Opening 3rd May 1967

The Mullard Space Science Laboratory was formally opened by F.E. Jones, Managing Director of Mullard Ltd on the 3rd May 1967. It had been operational since 1966 and the site was acquired in 1965.

At that time MSSL was part of the Physics and Astronomy department.


    John Raymont's Memoirs 

    John Raymont part of the original small band of experimeters that moved to MSSL from UCL's main site. As a technician and test engineer he was invaluable to many projects, particularly in the field of space plasma physics. In honour of his contribution MSSL's annual award for Outstanding Commitment to its Technology Programme is named in his honour.


      Alan Smith's 16 September 2007 Open Day Speach

      The 2007 open day held at MSSL also marked our 40th anniversary. The director, Professor Alan Smith, gave a talk looking forward to the future.


      Sir Robert Boyd

      Director 1965 - 1983, died 2004

      Sir Robert Boyd
      (19 October 1922 – 5 February 2004) was a pioneer of British space science and founding director of the Mullard Space Science Laboratory (part of University College London).

      Robert Boyd was born in Saltcoats, Ayrshire - one of twin boys. He was a pupil at Whitgift School and studied at Imperial College (BSc(Eng) 1943) and University College London (PhD 1949; Fellow 1988).

      His scientific career started at the Admiralty Mining Establishment in 1943 where he worked with some notable scientists, including Harrie Massey who would later encourage Boyd to engage in atmospheric physicsresearch at UCL. His thesis was on New Techniques for the Study of Ionised Gases.

      In addition to helping create the MSSL, Boyd played an instrumental role in the founding of the European Space Research Organization and its subsequent incarnation the European Space Agency (1974/75). Boyd succeeded Harrie Massey as the chair of the British National Committee for Space Research in 1976.

      Boyd was a committed Christian and he saw no conflict but subtle complementarity between science and religion. His 1950s and 1960s writings and lectures on this relationship helped Christians to be more influential in science, through the Research Scientists' Christian Fellowship.

      Related links:

      Prof. Len Culhane (Director: 1983-2003)

      Professor Len Culhane

      Prof. Keith Mason (Director: 2003-2005)

       Professor Keith Mason


      Prof. Alan Smith (Director: 2005-2017)

      Professor Alan Smith

      Prof. Andrew Fazakerley (Director: 2017-present)