USE THIS ONEA DART rocket carrying a Defence payload has launched Saturday from the Koonibba Rocket Range in South Australia, marking the first commercial rocket launch to the edge of space from Australia. At just 3.4 metres long and weighing 34 kilograms, the DART rocket is a fraction of the size of rockets launched by NASA and SpaceX. The rocket launch forms part of Air Force’s Plan Jericho advanced sensing program to detect and track challenging targets. The program also includes high altitude balloon launches. The launch of the DART rocket from the Koonibba Rocket Range was done in consultation with the local Aboriginal community and marks the start of commercial space launches from South Australia.

DEWC Systems Technicians, Brian Jones (left) and Tristan Von Hoof (right), monitoring operations systems at the Southern Launch Koonibba Rocket Range near Ceduna, South Australia.

Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds said space was an increasingly important domain, which is why the government is investing A$7 billion over the next decade in space capabilities as part of the 2020 Defence Strategic Update and Force Structure Plan. “The rocket will carry a prototype radio frequency receiver unit designed for Air Force. The payload, carried on a DART rocket, provides a stepping stone for Air Force to explore how advanced rapidly deployable networked sensors can be employed to provide information across Defence networks,” Reynolds said. “Air Force’s Plan Jericho has sponsored this prototype, developed by DEWC Systems, and marks an exciting future for Australia’s space capability.”

Southern Launch Engineers, Lewis McCluskey (left) and Andrew Barton (right), monitor launch operations at the Southern Launch Koonibba Rocket Range near Ceduna, South Australia.

Minister for Defence Industry Melissa Price said the DART rocket launch is a partnership between government and industry, demonstrating future opportunities for both commercial and government applications. “Air Force’s advanced sensing capability is being enhanced by working with leading Australian industry partners, Southern Launch, DEWC Systems, and Dutch company, T-Minus Engineering,” Price said. “The rocket is unlike any rocket ever launched in Australia, and is part of what is known as ‘New Space’ technologies – small rockets carrying reduced sized satellites using commercially available technologies.”

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