SA rocket catches fire on launch pad

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A test rocket ready to take off from a conservation area on the Eyre Peninsula caught fire on the platform during its third launch attempt in a week.

After two previous unsuccessful attempts, Taiwanese company TiSPACE attempted Thursday to launch its 10-meter, two-stage Hapith I suborbital rocket from the Whalers Way site.

Previous efforts on Friday of last week and Wednesday were aborted, the former due to bad weather and the latter due to systems failure.

Southern Launch, which operates the Whalers Way facility about 25 km southwest of Port Lincoln, said the launch was attempted again just after 4 p.m. Thursday, but an internal fault during ignition had caused it to catch fire.

The company said the blaze was contained at the launch pad and extinguished by Country Fire Service crews at the scene, with no injuries to the blaze.

TiSPACE had planned to use the launch to test its hybrid propulsion systems and as a prelude to future commercial satellite launches.

The third launch failure comes after conservationists last week called on Southern Launch to consider a different site for a permanent launch facility, citing “major concerns” about the potential impact on endangered bird species.

The company is still awaiting approval to build two permanent launch pads at the Whalers Way site to accommodate regular launches of satellites orbiting the Earth’s poles.

Southern Launch had planned to use Thursday’s test launch to collect noise and vibration data to determine the impact of rocket launches on native wildlife.

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