I read that the name Skylark was one of a long list of names submitted to replace "CTV5 Series 3". But what I'm really interested in is whether there's any connection to the "Skylark" series of sci-fi novels written by E.E. "Doc" Smith in the 1920s and 1930s.

According to Doug Millard's Skylark: Britain's Pioneering Space Rocket:

The name Skylark replaced the rather uninspiring CTV5 Series 3. A scientific officer working on the early programme felt the rocket needed a catchier name and so drew up a long-list of equally unlikely alternatives that ended with ‘Skylark’ – which was duly chosen.

Over almost half a century a total of 441 Skylark rockets were launched, making it one of the longest and most successful programmes of its kind in the world.

  • $\begingroup$ I added a little background information to help readers unfamiliar with Skylark. Slightly related: Did the British Skylark ever launch from the UK? $\endgroup$ – uhoh Sep 4 '19 at 9:33
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    $\begingroup$ other British sounding rockets included the Petrel and Skua $\endgroup$ – JCRM Sep 5 '19 at 9:03

The actual origin is captured in the question above, so I'll suggest here why the "Skylark" could have been a chosen name.

The Lark Ascending is a quintessentially English piece of classical music.

Skylarks are a common sight (and sound) in the English countryside (doubtlessly more prevalent back in the 50's than it is now).

According to a book on the subject, Eric Dorling, a member of the design team chose the name to be a nickname rather than the formal project name. The nickname subsequently was attached to the project.

The outstanding feature of the Skylark, a small brown British bird, is its ability to rise in the air vertically and remain stationary for minutes at a time with its wings fluttering before it parachutes back down to the ground. This also happens to be an appropriate description of its namesake, Britain's modest but very successful research rocket. Maybe Eric Dorling, a member of the design team who named it, was a bird watcher.

However, as we learn from Robin Brand's new book, that he had intended it to be a nickname not to become the project name, but it caught on.


It seems somewhat fitting that this name be chosen as a celebration of Englishness and is more modestly evocative than overtly garish patriotic names that could have been part of the same list.

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