Edinburgh-headquartered rocket company, Skyrora, whose aim is to become the leading UK launch provider for access to space, has appointed a new chief operations officer.

Colonel Lee Rosen, of the US Air Force (retired), is the former vice-president of mission and launch operations at Elon Musk’s SpaceX and a veteran of more than 150 space missions.

Colonel Rosen said: “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.”

Skyrora has 160 employees, a new state-of-the-art rocket engine testing facility in Midlothian which is the largest of its kind in the UK, and successfully launched its latest rocket engine, a key milestone in its contract with the European Space Agency.

Volodymyr Levykin, founder and CEO of Skyrora, was running an IT business in California when he moved back to Edinburgh with his family to start Skyrora in 2017.

Skyrora aims to conduct 16 launches per year from the Saxavord launch complex in the Shetland Islands by 2030.

Levykin said: “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.

“Having completed some 200 launches over the course of his career, we’re delighted that Lee has joined Skyrora and offering his unparalleled leadership and expertise to the team as we continue to hit crucial milestones in our push towards a maiden launch from UK soil.”

Colonel Rosen added: “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.”