A space rocket designed in Farnborough that was the first British rocket to reach space is the subject of a new book by a Hampshire author.

Robin Brand, who lives in Fordingbridge, west Hampshire, is the writer behind Britain's First Space Rocket: The Story of the Skylark, which is being published on December 1.

The book tells for the first time the full history of the Skylark rocket, and how, in November 1957, the Farnborough-designed vehicle became the first British rocket to reach space.

Mr Brand, who spent his career as an electronics engineer and is a history enthusiast with a particular interest in Farnborough's Royal Aircraft/Aerospace Establishment (RAE) decided the story of UK's earliest space rocket needed to be told.

The Skylark rocket was both designed and originally built at the RAE, and became an outstanding success.

Mr Brand said: "These days few have heard of the Skylark rocket, yet over a 48-year career hundreds were fired, launching into space thousands of instruments that made pioneering observations of the Earth, sun, stars and galaxies."

Mr Brand, now semi-retired and has three grown up children, made sure to write the book in an accessible style, but based it on many years of original research.

"I anticipated the book would take six months to write, but in the event it has taken over six years," he said.

Many of the 740 archive photographs and figures have never been published before.

Conveniently, the book comes at a time when the eyes of the public are raised to the sky due to the landing of the Philae probe on Comet 67P earlier this month.

"It has become curiously quite fashionable by coincidence," said Mr Brand. "Hopefully that will help sales.

"For my generation, it's like science fiction coming true. When I was a boy, there were no space satellites at all around. The first one had been launched but had only been there for a couple of months before coming down again.

"So, to see things like the Philae landing, it really is science fiction."

Britain's First Space Rocket: the story of the Skylark will be available to buy from the FAST Museum in Farnborough - a museum dedicated to the former Royal Aircraft Establishment (RAE) in the town, where decades of aerospace research was carried out.

It will also be available online from the