Korean space company Perigee Aerospace has signed an agreement with South Australian firm Southern Launch to start launching small rockets from its proposed facility on the Eyre Peninsula.
The first test launch of one of Perigee’s Blue Whale rockets is scheduled for next year.
Perigee is Southern Launch’s first commercial customer for its Whalers Way facility at the bottom of the Eyre Peninsula.
The deal was signed at the international space conference in Adelaide on Monday, between Southern Launch chief executive Lloyd Damp and Perigee CEO Yoon Shin, who said Southern Launch offered a unique facility that was a perfect match for his company's small rocket.
"We look forward to launching our rocket from Australia in the near future," Mr Shin said.
Mr Damp said Southern Launch offered a unique facility that was a perfect match for his company's micro-lift rocket.
“Perigee Aerospace shares our key values of efficient operations and high levels of safety for both the public and the environment,” he said.
“This signing establishes a partnership based on trust and implicit understandings about their usage of our launch site.”
Southern Launch said Perigee Aerospace was a leading orbital launch vehicle manufacturer in South Korea, currently developing the small launch vehicle Blue Whale, designed to lift small satellites into low-altitude, high-inclination orbits.
“These orbits are useful for weather, remote-sensing and imaging satellites. Those applications are increasingly in demand for commercial, scientific and defence purposes alike,” it says on its website.
“Blue Whale will be a small, efficient launch vehicle, designed to carry payloads of up to 50 kilograms. Perigee Aerospace already has multiple customers signed."
However, in order to launch rockets, Southern Launch needs to get its facility up and running.
Earlier this month, the South Australian government declared the proposed launch facility a major development, opening the way for acceleration of the development process.
Southern Launch examined a large number of possible locations for its launch site across Western Australia, Victoria and SA before settling on the 1,190 hectare site at Whalers Way.
That had the advantages of proximity to a nearby town, Port Lincoln, as well as an airport and harbour for delivery of rockets and components. The site is also clear of major air traffic routes and launching south, rockets pass over ocean.
The location is well suited to launches into polar or polar-like orbits.
Its development could eventually give Australia two space launch sites – the other is the Equatorial Launch Australia facility in the Northern Territory – maybe three if proposals for Queensland proceed.
Equatorial Launch Australia plans to conduct its first launches of NASA sounding rockets next year.
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