AHK News

HyImpulse launches rocket in South Australia


Our Space Coordinator, Thomas Mueller, travelled to South Australia at the end of April to witness the launch of German space start-up HyImpulse’s SR75 rocket. During the last few years, he has been busy connecting the German and Australian space industries and continuously sparking fascination for space amongst the broader chamber team. We saw a collaboration between Merck and a German Aerospace Centre (DLR) research aircraft happening in Cairns earlier this year and are regularly seeing opportunities evolve.

Tom, you travelled to South Australia last week, what was it for?

Yes, last week I flew to Adelaide, then to Port Lincoln, and drove to Koonibba in the north-west corner of the Eyre Peninsula to where HyImpulse, a German space start-up, was preparing to launch their rocket. HyImpulse, brought their SR75 rocket to Australia to test their new hybrid rocket engine and the interesting thing about this rocket is it uses paraffin, also known as candlewax, as a solid propellant. It is called a hybrid engine because the solid propellant is combined with liquid oxygen to create thrust. The paraffin is very safe to handle and was actually loaded into the rocket before it was transported to Australia, and this safety aspect also allowed us to get up close to the rocket while the paraffin was already inside.

What made South Australia a great location for such a launch?

South Australia is a great location for the launch because the Koonibba range enables launch and recovery over land, which is not something that many other launch sites around the world are able to provide. For HyImpulse this was an important consideration as they want to recover their novel hybrid engine and evaluate its performance. In a more indirect way, South Australia’s optimistic attitude towards developing a space industry has enabled start-ups like Southern Launch to flourish, and when HyImpulse was looking for a launch site, they found the flexibility of working with a start-up like Southern Launch more beneficial than working with the incumbent launch sites.

The launch was from Indigenous land, can you elaborate more on how the site was considered and local community was involved?

Southern Launch is leasing the land for the launch site from the Koonibba Community Aboriginal Corporation and has engaged in an extensive consultation process to ensure that the land around the launch range is appropriately managed and any sacred sites are protected. These areas are considered at early stages of their launch modelling along with other key factors like wind conditions. Southern Launch deserves praise for the way they have engaged the local community, bringing them on as contractors for logistics operations, and having the whole community on-site before the launch.

What else stood out to you?

This was my first time visiting the Eyre Peninsula in South Australia, and apart from the seafood being incredible (oysters, prawns, scallops…), I met some ambitious people who were involved in bringing the Southern Launch project to that region and have other ambitions for the development of the region too, such as grid-scale battery storage and hydrogen-fuelled heavy transport. I think it’s easy to forget about what’s happening in the regions of Australia and it’s something I will be paying a lot more attention to now.

You've been involved in the space industry for quite some time and have great connections, do you think Australia can get prepared for more projects like this one and potential German collaboration interest?

I’m biased of course, but I do believe there is great potential for Australia and Germany to work together in the space industry. As seen in this situation, there is value in Australia as a launch site, but in addition to this, Australia has great potential as a partner in microgravity research and space life sciences as well as developing unique commercial solutions in the space value chain. Unfortunately, I heard from numerous sources that there were not only issues with weather conditions but also delays with the approval of the launch permit. I think this is something that needs to be better managed in the future as it’s very costly for a team to fly out from the other side of the world and delays such as that may make or break a deal as the commercial launch market becomes more competitive. I also think New Zealand has taken a lead over Australia in terms of coherent engagement with Germany in the space sector and this is something Australia should examine and seek to rectify.

Wolfgang Mueller from SBS Sydney was on site and covered this story further here (in German).

Cover Image kindly provided by Southern launch.