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Thu, 23 Mar

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Britain's First Space Rocket - The story of the Skylark

Join us as Robin Brand tells the little known story of the Skylark space rocket, from its origins in the 1950s, until its last launch in 2005.

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Britain's First Space Rocket - The story of the Skylark
Britain's First Space Rocket - The story of the Skylark

Time & Location

23 Mar 2023, 18:50 GMT

Online via a unique link

About the Event

These days, few have heard of the Skylark sounding rocket. Yet, in November 1957, it was the first British rocket to reach space, and became the basis of Britain’s earliest space programme. Hundreds were fired, launching into space thousands of scientific instruments. Many of these carried out pioneering astronomical observations in the X-ray and UV spectrum, regions previously unavailable to British scientists.

This talk tells the story of that space rocket, from its origins in the 1950s, until its last launch in 2005. It is based on research for Robin Brand's book of a similar name (the first ever written on the full story of the Skylark), which was published in December 2014. The book includes many photographs from Australian archives never before published. Some of these, and rare video footage of Skylark launches, will be shown during the talk.

Although an electronic engineer by profession, Robin Brand (BSc CEng MIET FBIS) has always been interested in space matters, having graduated from the ‘Eagle’ comic and ‘Dan Dare’ (in colour) via ‘The Sky at Night’ on television (in black and white) to membership of the British Interplanetary Society (in 3D!)

His early interest was enhanced when science fiction started coming true with the advent of the first orbiting Earth satellites. Those were the days of great public interest, when the times the satellites could be seen passing overhead were published in the daily newspapers, and their data transmissions could be heard on the radio.

Many years later, after his three grown-up children had left home, he was able to find the time to carry out the archival research on which his book “Britain’s First Space Rocket – the story of the Skylark” was written. He was amazed to find that this activity took over from his day job, as instead of lasting the anticipated six months, it took more than six years of research and writing!

He was chair of the BIS Technical Committee from 2016 to 2020, and project leader of the very successful BIS “Nanosat Launch Vehicle Feasibility Study” Technical Project, which ran for a similar number of years.

The latter included in-depth studies on access to orbit from the UK, and in 2019 he a gave a talk on the subject to members of the island council at Saxa Vord on the Shetland Island of Unst, the location of a proposed UK Space Port.

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