Southern Launch signs with Germany’s Rocket Factory

Brandon How

Adelaide-based space company Southern Launch has partnered with a German rocket manufacturer to carry out launches from a site in South Australia.

Rocket Factory Ausburg AG (RFA) now has access to the Whalers Way Orbital Launch Complex, which is owned by Southern Launch. RFA will also provide associated services to help deploy the RFA ONE orbital launch vehicle.

Both firms anticipate that the RFA ONE will eventually be launched up to 50 times a year.

The Southern Launch site, located 680km west of Adelaide, gives rockets a direct path to sun-synchronous or polar orbits, both of which are useful for weather, observation, and mapping satellites. The RFA ONE can deliver payloads of up to 1,350kg to polar orbit at an altitude of 300km.

Southern Launch’s Whalers Way under construction.

Last September, Whalers Way Orbital Launch Complex had been scheduled to host the biggest rocket launch in Australia in 40 years. But after several delays, Taiwan-based TiSPACE’s rocket failed to launch due to an internal failure that caused the vehicle to catch fire.

The RFA ONE is three times as tall and is more complex than TiSPACE’s Hapith I. The German-built rocket has a height of 30-metres and is a three-stage orbital rocket, whereas the Taiwanese built rocket was only 10-metres tall and a two-stage sub-orbital rocket.

Founded in 2017, Southern Launch was the first company to receive a launch facility licence in Australia, This permitted them in early 2021 to launch suborbital satellites from its Koonibba Test Range in regional South Australia.

The launch services agreement between Southern Launch and RFA was signed during the Global Space and Technology Convention in Singapore. A partnership has been in the works since the companies first engaged in 2019 at the International Astronautical Congress in Washington.

Southern Launch chief executive officer Lloyd Damp said this development was a testament to Australia’s expertise in the global space industry.

“We are excited to announce this partnership with Rocket Factory Augsburg AG, which will see their launcher RFA ONE launched into space from Southern Launch’s sites in South Australia,” Mr Damp said.

“This partnership further demonstrates Australia’s world-class space launch capabilities to the international space industry,” Mr Damp said.

RFA chief commercial officer Jörn Spurmann said this partnership was crucial in cementing RFA as a world leader in launch services.

“Launching from South Australia allows us to offer our launch services in a highly customer-oriented way from a regional spaceport in the Asia-Pacific region. It marks a central milestone in our strategy for a globally distributed launch capability,” Mr Spurmann said.

“With various launch sites around the world, we minimize our customers’ logistics and time constraints and lay the infrastructural foundation for a weekly launch cadence. Southern Launch offers a comprehensive and competitive service to launch our rockets. We could not have wished for a better partner.”

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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