Rocket misfires in South Australian outback

Rocket misfires in South Australian outback

The first rocket launch from a commercial test site on Australian soil was supposed to blast off on Tuesday but instead misfired.

However, there are plans to try again within the coming days.

In a South Australian first, the rocket was set to launch from a test range in Koonibba, about 40km from Ceduna, at noon to the edge of space.

At about 1.45pm the attempt was made, but it did not go to plan.

Hoping for a ‘perfect launch’, Southern Launch CEO Lloyd Damp said the misfire was unfortunate but was one of the eventualities that was prepared for.

He said there was also an incident where people accidentally entered the hazardous area on the range which momentarily stopped operations.

“We’ll be back as early as tomorrow but we’ll be looking at the weather and will get the launch of the space-capable rocket as soon as possible,” Mr Damp told NCA NewsWire.

Weather conditions are dependant on when the rocket will be launched — a day with little to no wind or clouds is needed.

Showers and a possible storm are forecast in Ceduna from Wednesday to Friday, according to the weather bureau.

“It looks like Saturday — which was when we were planning on doing our second launch — will be a good day. We’ll keep monitoring the weather and if the forecast changes into the next couple of days we’ll work out then our next move,” Mr Damp said.

When it is successful, the DART rocket – just 3.4m long and weighing 34kg – will travel up to 100km into the atmosphere and then release a payload, which is about the size of cigar.

The payload will then deploy a parachute, where data will be collected and gathered to use for future launches as it falls down to Earth.

According to DEWC Systems chief executive Ian Spencer, scout teams were on standby to retrieve the payload and the booster, or rocket motor, after the launch.

“There is a tracking device on the payload itself, and we’ll be tracking it as it comes down … and as it disappears over the horizon and we can’t track it like that anymore, we’ll have a helicopter go up with a handheld tracking unit in there so we should know pretty precisely where it’s landed,” he told ABC Radio Adelaide.

“The booster will land about 11km forward of the range, and there are scout teams on standby to retrieve that.

“We need to retrieve our payload and get our electronics back and this is a beautiful spot … where this is there’s nothing we could hit or hurt, and that’s why we chose this location.”

Prior to the misfire, Mr Spencer said Tuesday’s launch was a milestone for the country.

“When we get this away safely, it will open the door to all sorts of experimentation for universities and science organisations because they’ll know they have access to space from Australia, so this is just the first. We certainly have plans to do more.”

Mr Spencer said scientists were looking for perfect weather conditions with little winds.

Premier Steven Marshall, who attended the launch, said the country aimed to create a $12 billion space sector with 20,000 new jobs by 2030.

“It really does cement SA as the centre of the Australian space industry – it’s very exciting,” Mr Marshall said.

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