On August 18 2020, a small rocket launched off the coast of Iceland.
The blast-off was the culmination of a years-long ambition for Skyrora, a rocketry firm based out of Edinburgh, Scotland. Out over the icy waters, they successfully tested their Skylark Micro rocket on a flight that traveled some 17 miles up into Earth’s atmosphere.
It was a notable accomplishment for the United Kingdom’s burgeoning private space industry, but what really stands out about this launch was where it happened: off the coast of Langanes, a narrow peninsula known for its goose-like shape and scenic beauty. Skyora had successfully set up a portable launch site from scratch in just five days.
Inverse talked to the company’s head of launch, Robin Hague, about the test and what it means for Skyrora’s future.
What is Skyrora?
Founded in 2018, the company’s “total focus is small satellites,” Hague says.
The craft have a maximum weight of 661 pounds (300 kilograms). The company wants to be involved with all variety of small satellites: telecommunications, tiny CubeSats, weather information.
“All of it,” Hague affirms.
Right now, the company is focused on developing five classes of its Skylark family of rockets: the Skylark Micro, the SkyHy, the Skylark L, and, last but not least, the Skylark XL.
The Skylark Micro, which the company just successfully launched, is their second largest. The Skylark XL is the largest of the five: a three-stage rocket that the company hopes will have a range of over 620 miles (1,000 kilometers).
When it comes to the XL, Skyrora wants to stand out with the accuracy Hague says it can attain over its competition. The passengers in an XL launch won’t be people, but rather satellites looking to form constellations for any number of reasons — security networks, telecommunications, or learning about farming conditions, to name but a few.
“We’re using hydrogen peroxide as our oxidizer, which allows a catalytic ignition. So, basically to restart our third stage all we have to do is open the valves again. Open the valves, and it will relight,” Hague explains.
“We will be able to provide passengers on a cluster launch with the ability to get closer to where they really want to be rather than just dumping everyone off in one spot.”