Southern Launch’s second attempt at launching a rocket from the site of its proposed Whalers’ Way Orbital Launch Complex in South Australia will take place later this month, after the first test launch was called off.
The Adelaide-based space company is making final preparations for the VS03 mission with partners ATSpace, Asension and Inovor Technologies, with the 10-metre rocket beginning its journey to the launch site on Tuesday.
If successful, ATSpace’s ‘Kestrel I’ rocket will carry an Inovor Technologies spacecraft to an altitude more than 200 kilometres above Earth. The rocket will carry an electronic monitoring payload designed by Asension and a separate Southern Launch payload.
Total flight time will be approximately 10 minutes, with the rocket is expected to land in a “predetermined zone in the Southern Ocean”, according to a spokesperson.
No spacecraft will be deployed on the data gathering mission. It will serve as a proof of concept for future product development, particularly on ATSpace’s Kestrel V orbital launch vehicle according to chief executive Dr Yen-Sen Chen.
The mission will use existing satellite phone technology to track the satellite, meaning large ground-based infrastructure will not be required. Asension and Inovor Technologies will monitor their own technologies and test communications protocols.
Southern Launch chief executive Lloyd Damp said the mission is indicative of the leading work of the state’s space industry, cementing it as Australia’s space capital. This view was echoed by Inovor Technologies founder and chief executive Dr Matthew Tetlow.
Asension chief executive Ian Spencer noted that “having access to space from Australian soil is a game changer for our R&D efforts. This launch will accelerate the development of our technology in way that has not previously been possible. This means that we can provide greater sovereign capability sooner”.
In June, the four South Australian space companies signed a memorandum of understanding to explore opportunities to collaborate on a launch mission.
Southern Launch received two launch permits in July 2022 to complete its Eco Test campaign deploying the experimental Kestrel I rocket, a 10-metre two-stage sub-orbital launch vehicle, from the Whalers’ Way site. The November mission is referred to as VS03 whereas VS02 has no expected launch window and could take place beyond the end of the year.
The first test launch was meant to take place in September 2021 with Taiwanese space company TiSPACE’s ‘Hapith I’ launch vehicle. However, it was called off after the rocket combusted on the third launch attempt. ATSpace is the sister company of TiSPACE.
Last week it was announced that South Australia’s first satellite, designed and built by Inovor Technologies, would be launched into low earth orbit aboard a SpaceX Transporter mission in October 2023.
More data on the environmental impact of the launch will also be collected. Southern Launch has yet to receive environmental approval to develop its proposed Whalers’ Way Orbital Launch Complex. The company submitted its Environmental Impact Statement for public comment last August.
A response document and an assessment report must be released by the State Planning Commission before seeking final approval from Minister for Planning Nick Champion.
Local conservation groups are opposed to rocket launches at the Whalers’ Way Orbital Complex as it is also the site of several unique species, including two birds listed as vulnerable under the federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.
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