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Elon Musk rocket firm veteran joins Skyrora for maiden launch 

Lee Rosen
Lee Rosen has more than 150 launches under his belt.

Scottish firm Skyrora has tempted a vastly-experienced expert from Elon Musk-owned SpaceX – with more than 150 missions under his belt – to start as new chief operations officer (COO), as the company aims for 16 rocket launches from the Saxavord complex in Shetland by 2030.

Skyrora has appointed Lee Rosen, Colonel, US Air Force (ret), ex-VP of mission and launch operations and customer operations and integration at SpaceX, with the coincidence that his daughter is studying in Glasgow.

‘Serendipitous meeting’

“It was a very serendipitous meeting,” Skyrora business operations manager Derek Harris told the Press and Journal.

“We found out he was thinking about coming across and the conversation sort of spread from that.”

Artist's impression of Skyrora XL.
An artist’s impression of Skyrora XL.

During the course of his career Rosen has had experience as an engineer, space operator and acquisition professional – first discovering his passion for launch at an early age as the president of his high school rocketry club.

He spent 23 years in the US Air Force with Command tours at both launch bases, Vandenberg Air Force Base and Cape Canaveral prior to joining SpaceX.

During his decade-long tenure at the US space manufacturer he started as a launch facility director, leading the construction of the Vandenberg site for Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets.

Following that he led the team responsible for launch operations and then government, civil and commercial mission management as well as the team which operated and trained astronauts to fly the Dragon spacecraft.

“With Skyrora leading the way in UK launch and building infrastructure for the future of the UK’s space economy it’s an exciting time to join the company,” said Mr Rosen.

Space capability critical for defence edge

“Currently, the UK is completely reliant on the US and, although this is a crucial relationship, Skyrora is building towards a future when space capabilities in this country will allow for regular sovereign launches.

“Space capability is now critical to providing an edge when it comes to defence.

“Skyrora’s mobile, agile and responsive launch and on-orbit capability can provide the UK with something it has been missing and bolster its special relationship with the US.

“Additionally, we’re setting an example for the space industry with a responsible and sustainable attitude towards spaceflight. We need to ensure our environment is cared for.

“This doesn’t just mean launching remote sensing and earth observation satellites, but ensuring space companies are planning their launches and manufacturing with sustainability both on earth and in outer space at the core.”

Skyrora founder and chief executive Volodymyr Levykin is Ukrainian and was born in Zaporizhzhia in the south east of the country, near to where there has been intense Russian activity recently as conflict continues to ravage the war-torn land.

Skyrora chief executive Volodymyr Levykin.
Skyrora chief executive Volodymyr Levykin.

“Developing sovereign, mobile and sustainably-focused launch services is of the utmost importance for the UK’s ability to follow through on its commitments to address climate change, provide cutting edge defence capabilities and fulfil its potential in the emerging global space economy,” added Mr Levykin who also holds British citizenship.

“Having completed some 200 launches over the course of his career we’re delighted Lee has joined Skyrora, offering his unparalleled leadership and expertise to the team.”

Successful Skyrora rocket engine test

Rosen’s appointment comes at a crucial time for the rocket company as it continues to build momentum in its quest to launch from British soil.

Skyrora recently completed a successful test of its 70kN rocket engine, a milestone in its contract through the European Space Agency (ESA)’s Commercial Space Transportation Services and Support Programme (CSTS).

A new rocket engine testing facility was also opened in Midlothian in March adding to Skyrora’s portfolio of development, manufacturing, and testing facilities across Scotland.

The new purpose-built Midlothian site is the largest of its kind in the UK and allows Skyrora to take charge of the development cycle in-house.

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