A DART rocket carrying a Defence payload launched today from Koonibba Rocket Range in South Australia, marking the first commercial rocket launch to the edge of space from Australia.
CAPTION: A DART rocket carrying a Royal Australian Air Force payload takes off from Koonibba Rocket Range in South Australia. Photo by Sean Jorgensen-Day.
At just 3.4 metres long and weighing 34 kilograms, the DART rocket is a fraction of the size of rockets launched by NASA and SpaceX.
Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds said the rocket carried a prototype radio-frequency receiver unit designed for the Royal Australian Air Force.
“The payload, carried on a DART rocket, provides a stepping stone for Air Force to explore how advanced rapidly deployable networked sensors can be employed to provide information across Defence networks,” Minister Reynolds said.
“Air Force’s Plan Jericho has sponsored this prototype, developed by DEWC Systems, and marks an exciting future for Australia’s space capability.
“As space is becoming more congested and contested, the government is investing $7 billion over the next decade in space capabilities as part of the 2020 Defence Strategic Update and 2020 Force Structure Plan.”
Minister for Defence Industry Melissa Price said the DART rocket launch was a partnership between government and industry, demonstrating future opportunities for both commercial and government applications.
“RAAF’s advanced sensing capability is being enhanced by working with leading Australian industry partners, Southern Launch, DEWC Systems, and Dutch company T-Minus Engineering,” Minister Price said.
“The rocket is unlike any rocket ever launched in Australia, and is part of what is known as new-space technologies – small rockets carrying reduced-sized satellites using commercially available technologies.”
Today’s rocket launch forms part of the Royal Australian Air Force’s Plan Jericho advanced sensing program to detect and track challenging targets.
The program also includes high-altitude balloon launches.
The launch of the DART rocket from the Koonibba Rocket Range is being done in consultation with the local Aboriginal community, and marks the start of commercial space launches from South Australia.