Liftoff delayed for Taiwan's first indigenous rocket

09/11/2021 01:36 PM
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CNA file photo
CNA file photo

Sydney, Sept. 10 (CNA) The scheduled launch of Taiwan's first domestically-made research rocket Hapith I from Australia has been delayed due to poor weather on Friday.

The Made-in-Taiwan vessel was scheduled to take off for its maiden flight from the Whalers Way Orbital Launch Complex (WWOLC), which is operated by Australian company Southern Launch, an operation that provides infrastructure and logistical support for orbital and sub-orbital liftoffs.

The rocket launch would have been the first commercial liftoff at that complex and the company had designated a recently constructed launch pad located south of Port Lincoln for Hapith I to take off from.

However, in an announcement on Facebook on Friday, the company said that it had come to a decision with Taiwan Innovative Space Inc. (TiSPACE), the developer of the rocket, as well as Australian Space Agency to postpone the launch due to "strong upper winds," which would make the launch unsafe.

Named after the Saisiyat Taiwan Indigenous tribe's word for flying squirrel, the Hapith I is a science rocket developed by TiSPACE, engineered with a 10-meter two-stage sub-orbital spec.

Taiwan has the capability to build its own satellites, but had previously relied on the U.S. company SpaceX to launch them using the company's rockets. TiSpace, officially Taiwan Innovative Space Inc., is a space launch company from Taiwan that has been trying to develop its own rockets.

Before being transported to Australia, the rocket, which is made with 100 percent domestically-sourced components, was supposed to take off from Nantian Village, in Taiwan's Taitung County.

However, due to legal disputes, the launch was then suspended and an alternative site in southern Pingtung County's Mudan Township was chosen, before the launch location was later officially moved to Australia.

In the same Facebook announcement, Southern Launch CEO Lloyd Damp said: "The team are disappointed that we were unable to make history today for the Australian space industry, however our launch window is still open until Thursday, September 23rd, so we will be back on the range to attempt another launch."

Prior to the postponement of the liftoff, the launch of Hapith I had sparked media frenzy in Australia.

Sky News Australia reported that South Australia's governor, Frances Adamson, had conveyed her excitement toward the launch, and the prospects the occasion would've had for the industry in her state.

InnovationAus.com also quoted Space Industry Association of Australia CEO James Brown, who said: "This is the biggest rocket that's been launched in 40 years in Australia, so it's a pretty big deal."

Brown also added Southern Launch's efforts in getting through the approval process to get to the liftoff were "very exciting for the industry."

Conversely, indaily.com.au reported that the launch was causing concerns for conservationists, as it would have taken place in the Eyre Peninsula conservation zone.

The website also reported that the event would have been used by Southern Launch "to gather noise and vibration data to determine the impact of rocket launches on native wildlife," as part of the company's plans to construct a permanent base in the conservation area.

In a report from Australian Broadcasting Corporation, protesters broke into the launch site early Friday to advocate for whales that use the nearby waters to breed.

(By Lionel Chiou and James Lo)

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