Thunderbird 3 was the space-faring rocket owned and operated by International Rescue. It was piloted by Alan Tracy. (COMIC: Solar Danger et al.) According to one account, it was one of the eponymous vehicles in the television series Thunderbirds. (PROSE: Trading Futures)
As Thunderbird 3 was the only International Rescue vehicle built primarily for space flight, it was probably the least used of the four main Thunderbird craft for rescue missions on Earth. Its main function was to enable travel between Tracy Island and Thunderbird 5, the organisation's space station. With additional booster rockets fitted, it could travel extremely close to the Sun (COMIC: Solar Danger) and even made its way to Maruthea, which was located in the space-time vortex, on one occasion. (COMIC: Party Animals)
In a TV 21 report dated to 26 March 2066, when Thunderbird 2 was missing and believed destroyed, it was noted that TB 3 could also be used to transport International Rescue's machines to different operations in the absence of TB 2 but that it would not be as efficient or flexible. (PROSE: Thunderbird Two)
During the heat crisis of 2066, Alan took Brains to surface of the Moon and then to Thunderbird 5 so that he could determine why volcanic eruptions and earthquakes had been afflicting Earth. It was decided that photographs taken close to the Sun were required so booster rockets were fitted so that the craft could successfully complete the long journey. They successfully took their pictures, albeit having briefly been pulled in by the gravity, and returned to Earth. Soon after, Thunderbird 3 set off again for the Sun but carrying a planetomic missile in order to destroy a minor planet which was scheduled to break away. On the way, Alan was forced to use the extra circuit isotopes for more speed because Brains had miscalculated how much time they had to get there. They prevented the formation of the minor planet but the shockwave sent them spiralling towards Venus and the craft made a crash landing in a sulphur lake. They were briefly menaced by a monster, which damaged the hull, but killed it by ejecting the radioactive isotopes into the lake. Repairing the damage quickly with a sealing compound, Alan and Brains left the stricken ship at the bottom the lake while they waited for help. The other members of International Rescue eventually arrived in craft which had been modified for space travel and TB 3 was retrieved from the lake with Thunderbird 4. Alan, Scott and Gordon replenished the isotope stocks of Thunderbird 3 and, two days later, it was fit to return to Earth with the three other Thunderbird vehicles. (COMIC: Solar Danger)
Throughout the heat crisis, TV 21 published articles documenting the progress of International Rescue with accompanying photographs. Thunderbird 3 was pictured alongside the headlines dated to 3 September, (PROSE: Destination Sun) 10 September, (PROSE: Sunflare Claims TB3) 24 September, (PROSE: Operation Sunburst Begins) 1 October, (PROSE: Suicide!) 8 October, (PROSE: Monster Attacks Thunderbird 3) and 22 October. (PROSE: Time Runs Out For Thunderbird 3)
When the Fireflash Mk II was hijacked on its maiden flight in 2069, the demands of the hijackers, who were in cahoots with the Hood, were for all four Thunderbird craft plus their designer and fifty billion dollars. If these specifications were not met it was suspected they planned to deliberately explode the atomic reactor of the Fireflash. (PROSE: Stalemate!)
Behind the scenes
Although Thunderbird 3 technically made its Doctor Who universe along with the other Thunderbird craft in the crossover episode The Man from MI.5, it only appeared in the opening and closing titles rather than as part of the narrative.
Thunderbird 3 was also the only of the five craft to make an appearance in a Doctor Who story, making a cameo in the Seventh Doctor comic story Party Animals. Alan did not join his craft, however, as the only appearance of an International Rescue member in a Doctor Who story is Lady Penelope Creighton-Ward in the Eighth Doctor novel The Dying Days.