4 mins read 10 Sep 2021

Southern Launch and TISPACE ready to reach for Orbit

Adelaide-based space company, Southern Launch, has teamed up with Taiwanese-rocket company TiSPACE to launch a 10-metre rocket from the Eyre Peninsula - the first heavy-vehicle launch from Australian soil in decades.

The 10-metre tall Hapith-I rocket on the launch pad. Credit: Southern Launch

Excitement across the nation is building with Adelaide-based space company, Southern Launch,  expected to host the first large-scale rocket lift off from the Whalers Way complex on the Eyre Peninsula later today.

The notice of launch was issued by the Australian Space Agency on 7 September 2021, and approved the launch for the large vehicle, as part of an international collaboration between Australia and Taiwanese company, TiSPACE.

It will be the first time in decades in which a large rocket of this size will take to the skies from Australian soil, with the aims of both running the Southern Launch’s facility through a large-scale test (as well monitoring environmental impacts), in addition to testing the hybrid rocket’s propulsion, guidance, telemetry and structural systems for TiSPACE.

“We are tremendously excited to be on the verge of launching Australia back into space,” said Southern Launch Chief Executive Lloyd Damp.  

“This test launch represents the culmination of thousands of hours of preparation and planning, not only by everyone on our team but also at state and federal government levels."

The Hapith-I rocket on the launch pad at Whalers Way Orbital Launch Complex, along with the teams. Credit: Southern Launch.

This will be the second sub-orbital flight for Southern Launch, who in September 2020 successfully sent a much smaller rocket (the DART rocket, which weighed in at 34-kilograms and only 3.4-metres long) onto a sub-orbital trajectory from the company’s other launch facility - the Koonibba Rocket Range (located inland). 

The Hapith-I is a two-stage rocket, weighing in at three tonnes and standing 10-metres tall. The two-stage sub-orbital booster will climb to an altitude of approximately 100-kilometres, reaching speeds of approximately two - six times that of sound (Mach 2 - 6). Rockets that reach orbit are required to travel at Mach 25 to maintain orbital velocity (approximately 28,000 km/h). The name Hapith translates to flying squirrel from the Taiwanese Indigenous language, Saisiyat.  

“A safe and reliable sovereign launch capability is absolutely key in enabling South Australia and the Eyre Peninsula to start capturing part of the $5.5 billion global space-launch market,” said Mr Damp.

Map showing the location of the Whalers Way Launch Orbital Complex. Credit: Southern Launch.

The launch is occurring from Southern Launch’s Whalers Way Orbital Launch Complex, which recently had its launch licence approved by the Australian Space Agency, as well as releasing an environmental impact statement. The launchpad itself was designed by Southern Launch and construction completed by the Port Lincoln company, Owen Construct and Design. 

Whalers Way (situated on the tip of the Eyre Peninsula in South Australia) launch capabilities allows rockets to take off from the mainland of Australia and head south towards Antarctica, in polar or sun-synchronous orbits. This launch trajectory has minimal human impact and risk (nothing south of the complex but Antarctica).  

The launch comes at a time when the Australian public is experiencing a rekindled renaissance with the space industry, with almost a hundred up and running companies now in the public eye, working towards returning Australian space assets into orbit or utilising data from Earth Observation satellites to provide services. Several more large-vehicle launches are expected to take place in the coming months as well. 

“It’s important to remember that this is a test launch and that, no matter what happens tomorrow, we will gain valuable data that will further propel us along our journey,” said Mr Damp. 

“That’s what makes it so exciting. We’re hoping the weather remains favourable and that we can give a glimpse into the future of space for Australia.”