Australia needs the capability to launch large and small satellites
For Australia to become truly space-capable, it must be able to launch large satellites into geostationary orbit as well as small satellites into low-Earth orbit.
With the new Australian Space Agency now up and running, there are high hopes that Australia will soon develop a sovereign launch capability, according to a report on the Australian Strategic Police Institute (ASPI) The Strategist blog.
But not all space launches are equal, it said.
Launch parameters for placing a 600-kilogram satellite into geostationary orbit are different to those for placing several small satellites into low-Earth orbit.
“Australia’s space launch facilities must be ready to cope with both extremes if the nation is to become truly space-capable. There’s a danger in thinking that one size fits all in satellite launch facilities, launch telemetry and subsequent monitoring,” defence commentator Geoff Slocombe said in the article.
Already, New Zealand is ahead of Australia, with the Rocket Lab facility on the Mahia Peninsula on the North Island so far launching 28 satellites in five launches, the most recent on 5 May.
Two Australian firms, Black Sky Aerospace and Gilmour Space Technologies, both based on the Queensland Gold Coast, are developing rockets able to launch small satellites from northern Australia.
Last November, Black Sky conducted Australia’s first launch of a commercial payload from southern Queensland. That didn’t go into orbit – rather it was a test of materials and sensors.
Gilmour conducted its first test launch in in July 2016 with the blastoff of the prototype “reusable ascent separation article”, which reached a height of about 5,000 metres.
Both companies are planning further launches soon.
Other companies are planning space bases in South Australia and the Northern Territory. Queensland is also likely to get on board.
In the NT, the firm Equatorial Launch Australia has the backing of the NT government for its Arnhem Space Centre, near Nhulunbuy, which it said will be Australia’s first commercial space launch facility.
Southern Launch is planning what it calls Whalers Way Orbital Launch Complex on SA’s Eyre Peninsula. It also said this will be Australia’s first commercial launch facility.
The ASPI article said there’s a lot of scope for Australia and New Zealand to offer small-satellite launch services at very attractive prices through the rideshare concept to Asian countries as well as to our home markets.
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