SYDNEY – TiSPACE, a Taiwanese company, plans to launch Australia’s first commercial rocket later this year.
The rocket is called hapith, which means “flying squirrel” in the indigenous language of Taiwan.
So far no specific date has been given for the launch of the rocket. However, officials say an experimental flight is planned from a private facility on the Eyre Peninsula in South Australia this year. Official approval was given by the Australian government this week.
Developers expect the vehicle to reach outer space at least 100 kilometers above sea level, before falling back to Earth, over the ocean. The rocket’s data, navigation and propulsion systems will be checked.
James Brown, chief executive of the Space Industry Association of Australia, said it would be an important mission.
“This is the first, major rocket launch of the type for Australia in nearly 40 years,” he said. “So, this is a rocket that is about 10 meters high, it has two stages, it will be launched from over the sea from South Australia and it will be about 100 kilometers high. It is basically testing this Taiwanese technology. Which is a rocket built around a hybrid engine, and if it works well, if it’s at all safe, if it’s at all reliable, there’s a good chance this company will come back and launch a bigger rocket. It is about 20 meters high which can carry satellite payloads of up to 400 kg into space, so it is a really exciting development for the industry.”
TiSPACE is the first private space company in Taiwan to choose a launch site in Australia, reportedly due to domestic regulatory problems. Taipei Times Reported concerns over the legality of proposed launch sites in Taiwan.
Researchers say the project is potentially important to both Australia’s and Taiwan’s space industries, which have lagged behind other space programs. Australia established a domestic space agency only in 2018.
Alice Gorman, associate professor and space exploration specialist at Flinders University, says Australia is well positioned to benefit from the global space sector.
“At the top of the country, in the north, we’re relatively close to the equator and it’s a huge advantage to launch satellites into geostationary orbit because you get the help of Earth’s rotation,” she said. “In the south, where Southern Launch is developing its launch sites, we’re perfectly positioned to launch things into polar orbit, and that’s where we have a lot of Earth observation satellites, a lot of scientific satellites. and we’re not looking at, you know, monumentally massive, big rockets here. We’re looking at small rockets, small satellites and both ends of the country being able to specialize in different kinds of launches We really have a geographical advantage.”
Australia’s rocket launching heritage goes back decades. For years, there were regular launches at the Woomera Range in South Australia, including missile experiments for the military. The site remains a major Australian defense and research facility.
TiSPACE has said it plans further “sub-orbital launches and multiple orbital launches” after this year’s test flight.