Taiwan space startup to launch from Australia later this year

Taiwanese space technology company TiSpace will conduct test launches from a base in Australia after getting a green light from Australian regulators, according to press releases issued by the Australian government and TiSpace, Monday, August 23.

TiSpace will conduct test flights of its 10 meter-long, two-stage, sub-orbital rocket, Hapith I, from the Whalers Way Orbital Launch Complex in South Australia. The launch complex is operated by Southern Launch.

Minister for Industry, Science, and Technology Christian Porter said that the agreement was “an exciting moment that adds to the growing momentum in Australia’s space sector.”

Whaler's Way space launch site in South Australia
Whalers Way Orbital Launch Complex in South Australia.

The launch date will be determined by TiSpace and Southern Launch in the coming months.

Head of the Australian Space Agency Enrico Palermo called the agreement
“a significant milestone that will help pave the way for future commercial launches from Australia.”

“We are passionate about growing a thriving space industry – one that can open doors for our national space sector to launch technologies from home and attract greater investment from international launch customers,” Palermo said.

The Whalers Way launch site will initially support a test launch campaign for up to three suborbital rockets. Data will be collected during those launches to measure environmental impacts to assist in determining the site’s viability as a possible launch location for future suborbital and orbital

The first private company in Taiwan to specialize in space launch commercialization, TiSpace’s rocket Hapith I is nicknamed “Flying Squirrel” after the cute gliding mammal that inhabits Taiwan’s mountain forests.

However, Taiwan’s mountainous terrain is one of the obstacles the Taiwanese company has faced trying to find a suitable launch site at home.

Attempts to launch rockets from a site in Taiwan’s rural Taitung County last year were thwarted by bad weather, and the company faced protests from local residents as well as regulatory hurdles over land use laws.

Hapith I at launch site in Taitung County, Taiwan, February 2020. Picture: CNA.

Having a suitable launch site will accelerate the company’s ambition to develop small launch vehicles for dedicated delivery of satellites up to 390kg into low-Earth orbits up to 700 km.

TiSpace plans to launch three Hapith I suborbital launch vehicles from Whaler’s Way before the end of 2021.

Since 2018, the Australian Government has invested more than $700 million in the civil space sector as part of its plan to grow the sector to $12 billion and add another 20,000 jobs by 2030.  

Access to Space is one of seven National Civil Space Priority Areas set out in the Advancing Space:  Australian Civil Space Strategy 2019-2028.

In terms of the space industry, Taiwan’s innovative high-tech sector, and Australia’s sparsely populated open space could be a match made in heaven.

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