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Koonibba Test Range blast-off set for this week

The first blast-off from the Koonibba Test Range since it was upgraded into a permanent facility is scheduled for Tuesday.

The launch, which will be live-streamed here, will see German manufacturer HyImpulse’s SR75 rocket travel upwards to an altitude of 50 kilometres before parachuting back to Earth, where it will be recovered.

Southern Launch’s Koonibba site, near Ceduna in South Australia, is designed to test rockets and payloads by blasting them into suborbital space before they return to Earth on the same site.


It’s uniquely a joint venture between the launch firm and the Koonibba Community Aboriginal Corporation.

The range differs from Southern Launch’s more traditional Whalers Way Complex at the tip of the Eyre Peninsula, which specialises in orbital launches over the sea.

Last month, Susan Close, the state’s deputy premier, visited the site and hailed it for marking a “pivotal moment” for the local space industry.

“Through the partnership between Southern Launch and the Koonibba community, groundbreaking space exploration is set to unfold that will benefit the community for years to come,” she said.


The rocket blasting off, meanwhile, will be unique because it will be propelled by “greener” paraffin wax and liquid oxygen, a non-explosive fuel.

It’s hoped the mission – named “Light This Candle” in homage to Alan Shepard’s famous quote – will assist HyImpulse in developing its larger SL1 Orbital Launcher, which could one day blast off from the main Whalers Way Orbital Launch Complex.

The team had originally targeted a launch on Monday but are now planning for the blast-off to take place on Tuesday, 29 April, weather permitting.

Also as part of the launch, postcards written by students will be part of SR75’s payload in an initiative organised by the One Giant Leap Australia Foundation.

Once the students’ postcards return to Earth, One Giant Leap will add a special stamp to certify that the postcard went on the rocket before it is returned to the students as a memento.

Jackie Carpenter, the foundation’s director, said, “This project is all about engaging young people with space and STEM and opening their eyes to the possibilities of the space industry.

“How much fun is it to create a postcard and send it off on a rocket and then get it back via their letterbox?”

It follows the announcement last year that the federal government would issue a $4.5 million grant for the range’s upgrade.

Southern Launch previously said it already has several missions set to launch from the site, including the ReFEx mission with the German Space Agency (DLR).

The company also signed an MOU with UK-based Space Forge to use the Koonibba Test Range as a re-entry point for their spacecraft, alongside a separate deal to use it as a re-entry point for a capsule undertaking pioneering medical treatments in space.

Adam Thorn

Adam Thorn

Adam is a journalist who has worked for more than 40 prestigious media brands in the UK and Australia. Since 2005, his varied career has included stints as a reporter, copy editor, feature writer and editor for publications as diverse as Fleet Street newspaper The Sunday Times, fashion bible Jones, media and marketing website Mumbrella as well as lifestyle magazines such as GQ, Woman’s Weekly, Men’s Health and Loaded. He joined Momentum Media in early 2020 and currently writes for Australian Aviation and World of Aviation.

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