Tiny town on space frontier

TEST SITE: Koonibba Community Aboriginal Corporation chief executive officer Corey McLennan, left, with Southern Launch chief executive officer Lloyd Damp earlier this year. Picture: Supplied
TEST SITE: Koonibba Community Aboriginal Corporation chief executive officer Corey McLennan, left, with Southern Launch chief executive officer Lloyd Damp earlier this year. Picture: Supplied

South Australia is ready to launch Australian space exploration into a new era on Tuesday - and the tiny town of Koonibba in the state's far west will be the focus.

Adelaide-based company Southern Launch will conduct its first launch from the Koonibba Test Range over uninhabited national park at 12pm ACST.

That will be followed by a second launch on Saturday.

The range is about 40 kilometres north-west of Ceduna and, after working in recent years to reach this point, Southern Launch chief executive officer Lloyd Damp said he was looking forward to the test.

He told the Port Lincoln Times this would be an exciting day for Australian space exploration.

"This event is more than just Australia's first launch, but a testament to Australian companies coming together with our international partners to push the boundaries of the conceivable and inspire future generations to be space-farers," he said.

The rocket will carry a small payload into the thermosphere, where it will be released to gently fall back to earth under a parachute to be recovered and examined.

The rocket weighs 34 kilograms, is 3.4 metres long, it has one engine, will burn out of fuel six seconds after lift-off, and will travel at about 1.5 kilometres per second to an expected height of 85 kilometres.

It will fall back to earth about 95km north of the launch point, while the tiny payload on board will conduct an important sensing mission as it descends to earth.

BLAST OFF: The planned trajectory of the rocket from the launch site at Koonibba. Picture: DEWC

BLAST OFF: The planned trajectory of the rocket from the launch site at Koonibba. Picture: DEWC

Mr Damp said the possibilities to come from exploration would help local communities, including farming through the use of small satellites.

"There is so much misinformation about modern space launching and when people think space they think Saturn V rockets, but what we do is about tiny rockets," he said.

"It is about efficiencies in operations touching communities that we are proposing to operate from so there are benefits to industry, including agricultural practices.

"If we can make agriculture more profitable and efficient, it can help farmers better manage their land."

The company has worked with the Koonibba community in preparation for the test launch.

It engaged with more than a dozen community members who have completed training to become traffic monitors for test launch periods.

They will start roadblocks and help with traffic control, plus make sure the area is secure and educate the local community about what is taking place.

Koonibba Community Aboriginal Corporation chief executive officer Corey McLennan said it was an exciting time for the town, after actively engaging with Southern Launch.

"Our people continue to have a strong connection with the land, the sea and the sky, so with Southern Launch developing a rocket test range on our lands we are excited to develop a partnership role in developing Australia's space future," he said.

The Koonibba community, and others from the region, is invited to watch the launch from the official public viewing area organised by the Aboriginal Corporation with a secondary viewing area nearby along Foggos Road.

This story Tiny town on space frontier first appeared on West Coast Sentinel.