Scots firm's first space launch falls short as rocket lands in sea

Skyrora attempted to launch its suborbital Skylark L rocket from a site in Iceland into space on October 8.

Edinburgh-based Skyrora’s first Icelandic space launch falls short as rocket lands in Norwegian Sea Skyrora

An Edinburgh-based rocket company’s first space launch ended abruptly after the rocket landed in water due to a technical error.

Skyrora attempted to launch its suborbital Skylark L rocket from a site in Langanes, Iceland into space on October 8.

The 11m-long rocket left the launch pad, but a technical problem saw it fall back into waters no more than 500m from where it took off into the Norwegian Sea.

No people or wildlife were harmed following the failed launch, and recovery of the vehicle is ongoing with multiple tracking systems as well as boats and aeroplanes to optimise the process.

“While this launch attempt did not go entirely as we expected, it has nevertheless been a valuable learning opportunity – and a huge victory for this new relationship between Iceland and the UK, as well as the European space sector more broadly,” said founder and CEO of Skyrora, Volodymyr Levykin.

Skyrora hopes to start orbital launches from UK soil next year, at the Saxavord Spaceport being developed on Shetland with a much bigger rocket – orbital rocket Skyrora XL.

It follows a successful second stage static fire test of Skyrora XL in August at Scotland’s Machrihanish Airbase – the first test of its kind in the UK in over 50 years. 

“This suborbital launch attempt of a rocket developed in Scotland is another exciting step on Skyrora’s journey towards launching from the UK,” said Matt Archer, director of commercial spaceflight at the UK Space Agency.

He added: “Our strong international relationships with partners such as Iceland are vital for our own launch ambitions. By harnessing the opportunities provided by commercial spaceflight, we are creating highly skilled jobs and local opportunities across the country.”

Skyrora XL’s second stage static fire test was the biggest integrated test to be held in the UK since those of Black Arrow and Blue Streak in the 1970s.