Former SpaceX manager quits UK startup Skyrora after only six months

Only six months after he took the job as chief operating officer at the British rocket startup Skyrora, former SpaceX manager of its mission and launch operations Lee Rosen has quit the company.

A Skyrora spokesman said Mr Rosen had left for “personal reasons” and planned to return to California.

It is the latest blow to the space venture that is hoping to use a rocket base on the Shetland islands to fire small satellites into space. The company’s first suborbital launch test of its Skylark L rocket from a pad in Iceland failed, with the rocket crashing into the Norwegian ocean about 500 metres from the coast. The company blamed the failure on a “software related anomaly”.

Rosen’s quick exit from the company could suggest something is not quite right there, or it could simply be the job was not right for him. We do not know. The article however also provides this tidbit about this British rocket startup:

Skyrora was founded by Ukranian entrepreneur Volodymyr Levykin, a former executive at now defunct dating empire Cupid PLC. Its investors include Ukrainian internet entrepreneur Max Polyakov, according to a report by Snopes. Mr Polyakov is a shareholder at Hong Kong-based Digitroom Holdings, which owns a stake in Skyrora.

Polyakov was the billionaire who bought Firefly when it was bankrupt, He resurrected it, and then was forced to sell out by the State Department.

Firefly savior Max Polyakov gives away his stock

Capitalism in space: Forced by the Biden administration to leave the smallsat rocket company Firefly Aerospace because he is not a U.S. citizen, the billionaire Max Polyakov — who brought the company back from bankruptcy — has now sold his 58% share to the company’s founder, Tom Markusic for one dollar.

His announcement of this decision did not speak well of the federal government:

I am giving up for 1 usd consideration all my 58% stake in Firefly to my co-founder and partner Tom. Dear CFIUS, Air Force and 23 agencies of USA who betrayed me and judge me in all your actions for past 15 months . I hope now you are happy . History will judge all of you guys. Max love Ukraine and yes I have Ukrainian passport and I am Founder of Firefly !!! Bye my “bird” and at the end of the days I proud what I done for my Land soul and heritage !!!

While it is generally not a good idea to have a non-U.S. citizen controlling a rocket company, Polyakov’s record here was outstandingly positive, for the U.S. Moreover, the Ukraine is a strong ally of the U.S., or used to be. To force him out for no reason seems irrational. A more rational approach would have been for the government to insist on monitoring his actions closely, so that only if he appeared to be acting against our interests would it act.

Polyakov’s decision to give Markusic the company further proves his good will. Too bad we have now lost him.