Skylark: Britain’s first space rocket

British Aerospace Skylark at Aerospace Bristol, Filton, 20 June 2018. By Hugh Llewelyn.

The October talk will be given by Robin H Brand who will be talking about the Skylark, Britain’s first space rocket.

Poster for Robin H Brand

These days, few have heard of the Skylark sounding rocket. Yet, in 1957, it was the first British rocket to reach space, and became the basis of Britain’s earliest space programme. Over the next 48 years hundreds were fired, launching thousands of scientific instruments. Many of these carried out pioneering astronomical observations in the X-ray and UV spectrum.

This talk tells the story of that space rocket. It is based on research for Robin Brand’s book which was published in December 2014. The book includes many previously unpublished photographs. Some of these, and rare video footage of Skylark launches, will be shown during the presentation. (Copies of the book will be available for purchase on the evening).

Although an electronic engineer by profession, Robin Brand (BSc CEng MIET) 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 and this talk are based. 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 to produce the original material. In 2015 the book was short-listed for a ‘Sir Arthur Clarke’ award for space activity in the media category.