All systems go for launch of Australian space rocket

South Australia is closer to its return to the rocket business, for the first time in half a century, with the firms behind the event confirming they expect to launch within weeks.

Four SA companies are putting the final touches on the VS03 mission that is hoped will launch a rocket and small payload into space from Whalers Way.

NASA successfully launched a rocket from the Northern Territory at the end of June – the first commercial space launch in Australia’s history – and also launched from Australia in 1995, when its rockets lifted off from the Woomera rocket Range.

ATSpace ‘Kestrel I’ rocket to be launched from the Southern Launch Whalers Way Complex is weather dependent.

The ‘Kestrel I’ launch vehicle is a 10 metre, two stage, sub-orbital rocket. The rocket will reach an altitude of more than 200 kilometres above Earth. The trajectory of the launch will be over the Southern Ocean with the total time of flight approximately 10 minutes.

ATSpace is a sister company to Taiwanese rocket developer TiSPACE, which in November opened a facility at Wingfield, Adelaide, with support from the Global Australia program of the Australian Trade and Investment Commission.

In September, an earlier launch attempt by TiSPACE failed to lift off at Whalers Way.

The Southern Launch payload will use existing satellite phone technology to track the rocket as it travels through space removing the need for traditional ground-based infrastructure.

Next for the Australian space program

The Chief Executive Officer of ATSpace, Dr Yen-Sen Chen, is based in Adelaide. He says the launch is expected to demonstrate the technical performance of the Kestrel I system. 

‘This suborbital launch will provide us with valuable data to validate our future Kestrel V orbital design. Launching to space is a challenging task and well-planned test launches help us achieve technical maturity.’

The space enthusiasts journal The Room reports that Woomera was busy in the 1960-s and early 1970’s.

From 1964 – 1970, ELDO, the European Launcher Development Organisation (a precursor of the European Space Agency) conducted its Europa launch vehicle programme, the largest space project undertaken at Woomera.

Although ELDO never managed to launch a satellite during this programme, Australia’s first satellite WRESAT was launched from Woomera in 1967, and the last launch of Britain’s Black Arrow programme, active 1969 – 1971, lofted Prospero, the second satellite to achieve orbit from Woomera.

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