After a severe thunderstorm damaged an ATSpace rocket on the launch pad in November, the company has announced that repairs are complete and they will attempt another launch in the coming weeks, followed by another already planned launch of a second rocket.
Dr. ATSpace CEO Yen Sen Chen said they were pleased to find that the repairs to the VS03 missile were less than initially expected.
“We always planned to launch the VS02 rocket in 2022 and it’s fantastic that we can try to combine the two missions into consecutive launches,” he said.
Southern Launch and ATSpace have received clearance from the Australian Space Agency to launch the VS02 and VS03 missions from the Whalers Way Orbital Launch Complex on South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula.
Both missions will test the viability of the two-stage, sub-orbital Kestrel I missile while collecting data on the noise and environmental impacts of conducting launches at the Whalers Way complex in anticipation of future commercial launches.
In the VS03 mission, the 10-meter Kestrel I rocket will carry three South Australian-designed payloads to an altitude of 200 km at speeds in excess of 5,000 km/h and spend approximately 10 minutes in space.
The journey across the Southern Ocean will be tracked on board by a state-of-the-art payload, reducing the need for ground-level surveillance.
The South Australian companies Southern Launch, ATSpace, Asension and Inovor Technologies have collaborated on the VS03 mission.
ATSpace was founded in Australia in January 2021 and is the sister company of TiSPACE from Taiwan.
Inovor Technologies, which provides turnkey spacecraft mission delivery services, built the spacecraft that will house the payloads designed by Asension and Southern Launch.
The sub-orbital spaceflight allows the companies to test their technologies under launch conditions and monitor payloads to help inform future space missions.
Asension CEO Ian Spencer said accessing space from Australian soil is a breakthrough for the company’s R&D efforts.
“This launch will accelerate the development of our technology in a way that was not possible before. This means we can provide more sovereign capacity faster,” he said.
Dr. Yen-Sen Chen said the launch will demonstrate the technical performance of the Kestrel I system.
“This suborbital launch provides us with valuable data to validate our future design of the Kestrel V orbital,” he said.
“Launching into space is a challenging task, and well-planned test launches help us reach technical maturity.”
Lloyd Damp, CEO of Southern Launch, said a successful launch will be a “clear demonstration of the future potential” of the Whalers Way site to become a permanent launch pad.
He said the different payloads will test different communication protocols and will be able to acquire spaceflight heritage for their satellite components scheduled for orbit in 2023.
While the South Australian government has yet to approve the company’s plans for a permanent space launch facility at the site, Damp hopes it’s only a matter of time and the required approvals are gathered before space manufacturers can launch their rockets and payloads at the site.
“What we now expect to see is even more companies drawn to Australia, South Australia and our regional areas to leverage the capabilities of our state-of-the-art launch facilities,” Damp said.
The company works with the South Australian Country Fire Service (CFS) to ensure launches are safe. Part of this includes developing in-house firefighting capabilities and technology that reduces the need for local CFS crews to be on site.
“We have invested significantly in the development of in-house firefighting capabilities and firefighting systems for the launch pad at the Whalers Way Orbital Launch Complex,” Damp said.
“The launch trajectory for both potential missions is over the Southern Ocean, further minimizing the risk of fire.”
In September, Southern Launch formed a shared partnership with the United States Space Commandthe first commercial Australian space company to enter into such an agreement.
The United States Space Command tracks more than 47,000 objects in orbit around the planet. Under this agreement, Southern Launch is working with the US Space Command to ensure that its rockets follow a safe trajectory in space.
Richard Price, CEO of the South Australian Space Industry Center, said good weather conditions and little air traffic made the Great Australian Bight Whalers Way a perfect place for launches.
“The trajectory we’re on now is that we’ll be producing satellites in South Australia in large quantities over the next few years,” Price said.
“Companies are looking for constellations of satellites in South Australia. So there’s an important industry, both from the standpoint of the application of the technology itself and the many ways it can improve our lives, and also the inspiration it will bring to the community to actually get involved in exciting science. and technological careers in the future.”
Price said the global market for launches is highly competitive and the successful test launches at Whaler’s Way would maintain momentum to secure production of satellites in South Australia.
“Other launch sites are popping up in Norway, Sweden, the UK, and everyone is trying to do what we’re doing in South Australia,” Price said.
“The test launches are part of a campaign previously approved by the Australian government for three suborbital rocket launches. The construction and operation of an orbital launch facility at Whalers Way is still subject to major development approval from the South Australian Government.
Damp said launching the rockets on behalf of Southern Launch customer ATSpace and granting space access to Asension and Inovor Technologies to test their world-class technology brought together South Australian’s leading companies.
“The VS03 mission will be a realization of the incredible work and collaboration taking place here in South Australia and a testament to our position as Australia’s space capital,” Damp said.