First Launch from Shetland

Skylark Nano Launch
Credit: Shetland Times

On Saturday 13 June, Skyrora Limited, a British rocket company based in Edinburgh, launched, from Fethaland Peninsula at North Roe, near the northernmost point of Mainland Shetland, its first Skylark Nano sounding rocket, the first such launch from Shetland soil!

This is the third time that this class of rocket has left the ground (the first such launch having taken place in Ross-shire in the summer of 2018), and during the flight, weather information and data on wind profiles (essential for future launches) were collected, and the flight path of the vehicle, reaching an altitude of six kilometres, was analysed. The launch provided vital training and experience for Skyrora personnel. This success comes hard on the heels of a successful static-fire test for the Skylark-L rocket, which will be a guided suborbital vehicle.

Skylark Nano is a single-stage, fin-guided rocket, designed for launch and recovery practice; however, a number of universities and individual students have expressed interest in using it as a research rocket. The fact that the vehicle is fin-guided means that a flight control system is not needed, simplifying the design. The Skylark Nano uses Hydroxyl-terminated polybutadiene (HTPB) fuel, in a Cesaroni Incorporated M-1520BS motor with an average thrust of 1526N, a maximum thrust of 1825N, a total impulse of 7579Ns, and a total burn time of 5s, with a specific impulse of 181s. The vehicle itself is 2m in length, and is 0.102m in diameter, and has a mass at lift-off of 13.325kg, with a maximum payload of 1kg.

Local news reporters were invited by Skyrora to watch the launch, with social distancing precautions being carefully observed. Skyrora aim to create 170 jobs by the end of 2023, building a supply chain in Britain.

Robin Hague, Skyrora

Skyrora’s Head of Launch, Robin Hague, said that: “The launch signifies a vital step towards Skyrora’s ambitions to become the UK’s “go-to” satellite launch provider. We’re ecstatic and truly proud. This is a great success for Skylark Nano, and the Skyrora team in general. Launching from Shetland is very important for us because it’s a potential option for our Skyrora XL orbital commercial launch vehicle. To understand the local launch conditions learning more about the wind profiles in Shetland is critical. Skylark Nano’s third successive launch is testament to the engineers who have worked tirelessly to bring to life a reusable rocket that can provide valuable intelligence for the future of the UK space programme.”

Chief Executive Officer of Skyrora, Volodymyr Levykin, said: “With this successful launch from Shetland we are further closing the gap to making the UK a rocket launching nation again. For Skyrora this test was all about learning and training. The innovation at Skyrora is enormous, not only are we producing high quality results, but we are doing so with minimum impact to the environment as we strive to develop eco-friendly technology in our launches. At a time of such uncertainty it is important we keep focusing on ingenuity and enterprise. We hope reaching space will inspire the whole nation and show the younger generation what the future of UK Space holds”.

The British Interplanetary Society congratulates Skyrora on this milestone to space launch from Britain!

Author: Griffith J Ingram



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