Southern Launch Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Who is Southern Launch?
Southern Launch in an Adelaide based company with a strong rocket heritage. The team members have Australian Defence and Industry backgrounds.
Where is Southern Launch’s launch site?
The Southern Launch Orbital Rocket Launch Complex is situated at the southern tip of the Eyre Peninsula, South Australia, at Whalers Way, approximately 40km south of Port Lincoln. The exact location will be decided upon after an in-depth analysis and consultation process.
Who are the customers of Southern Launch?
Southern Launch is targeting both domestic and international rocket manufacturers.
Why will Southern launch operate from Whalers Way?
Historically, satellites have been used mainly to beam TV signals, provide internet and relay telephone calls. To do this, these telecommunication satellites have been put into orbit around the Earth’s equator in what are known as Geostationary orbits, 35,786km away from the Earth’s surface. As the name suggests, one Geostationary orbit around the Earth takes 24 hours, and because the Earth rotates every 24 hours, these satellites seem to be stationary over one location on the Earth (Geo). The easiest way to get these big satellites into orbit is to launch the rockets that carry them from near the Earth’s equator. Telecommunication satellites are very big, very heavy, and very expensive (e.g. the two Australian SkyMuster satellites that were built as part of the NBN program). These two NBN satellites were built and launched in 2015 and 2016 from South America, each weighed over 6,000kg and each cost AU$1Billion. These satellites are in Geostationary orbits and make high speed internet available to every Australian.
However we now need different satellites that look for bush fires, monitor crops for farmers and even help us find stranded ships at sea. These modern satellites are called ‘cubesats’, weigh a couple of kilograms each and cost a few hundred thousand dollars to build. We even have several companies building these ‘cubesats’ here in Australia. These small ‘cubesats’ want to see the whole Earth so are launched into what is known as Polar orbits that go around the North and South Poles while the Earth spins around on its axis. Because these new ‘cubesats’ are smaller and only go a couple of hundred kilometres into space, the rockets that launch them are smaller too.
As technology improves and electronics get smaller, more of the functions of the big geostationary satellites, will be built into smaller, cheaper satellites.
How big will the rockets be?
Our launch site is being designed to launch small rockets that can carry a few satellites at a time. Most of the rockets will be between 9 and 29 metres tall with a payload capacity of 50 to 400kg to orbit. This is far smaller than the Space Shuttle or Falcon rockets developed by SpaceX.
When will the first launch occur?
Southern Launch is aiming to have a demonstration launch as soon as possible. This launch will not go into orbit but prove that we can once again launch rockets from Australia. More details will be released when they become available.
Interestingly, Australia was the 4th country in the world to successfully launch a satellite into space with the WRESAT satellite in 1967 and the Prospero satellite in 1971, both launched from Woomera in South Australia. Australia has not launched anything into orbit from our soil since then.
How frequently will launches occur?
Initially we expect to have one launch every few months, and then more frequently as the industry grows.
How will this orbital launch site benefit Australia?
Southern Launch’s Whalers Way Complex will create a ‘centre of gravity’ attracting both local and international rocket and satellite manufacturers to South Australia. This will create more technology related jobs here in Australia. It is internationally recognised that for each space-associated job, eleven other work opportunities are created.
Why do Australians need satellites?
Australians use space-based satellite information every day. We use satellites to navigate our cars, tractors and trains; to help farmers monitor crops for disease, hydration and soil quality; to find sheep that wander away from their herds; to connect our EFTPOS machines to the Bank; and even to spot bushfires as they first start.
The list of where we can use satellite data grows every day!
Why are rockets required to launch satellites?
The only way to get satellites into space is to put them on top of a rocket. A rocket is one of the highest performance vehicles on Earth and is specially designed to fly into space and accelerate to over 28,000km/h! This speed is known as escape velocity and is the speed required to escape the pull of the Earth’s gravity.
Will the rockets carry any nuclear materials?
Southern Launch will be a nuclear free launch site. No rocket uses nuclear materials to get into space, and Australia is a signatory to the Outer Space Treaty.
In which direction will the rockets be launched?
Our launch site is being designed to put satellites into orbits around the North and South Poles. This means that rockets will be launched southward out over the Great Australian Bight towards Antarctica.
How noisy will the rocket launches be?
As these are small rockets, the noise will be far less than the NASA and SpaceX rockets. You will not be able to hear the rockets from a few kilometres away.
Will spent rocket stages be collected from the ocean?
The decision to collect spent stages will be made on a case by case basis with the relevant State and Federal agencies, environmental authorities, and the rocket manufacturer.
What is a Launch Exclusion Area, and a Launch Exclusion Corridor and how big will they be?
Safety to people during a launch event is Southern Launch’s main focus. To ensure people are safe, an exclusion zone will be setup around the launch complex (Launch Exclusion Area), and on the ground along the path the rocket will fly to get into space (Launch Exclusion Corridor). For safety reasons, no unauthorised persons or vehicles will be allowed in these areas during a launch. These Exclusion Zones will only be in effect when they are needed, and the public will be given ample notice before they are put in place.
The exact size and location of these zones will be based on the size of the rocket being launched at the time and the orbit the rocket will go into.
Will work opportunities eventuate as a result of launches?
Definitely! Rocket manufacturers will rely on Australian sourced components and services from Adelaide, Port Lincoln and the wider Australian supply chain. Over time, it is expected that some companies will relocate some, if not all, manufacturing into the State thereby generating new jobs for local Australians.
Can I work for Southern Launch?
We are always on the look out for enthusiastic people who are driven to realise space access. Keep checking our website and apply for any of the jobs that you believe you have the skills for.
Will tourism be adversely affected?
Absolutely not! It is envisioned that the tourism facilities will be progressively improved as the project unfolds. We foresee the launch site and launches themselves becoming a tourism drawcard. The public will be encouraged to observe launches from designated sites.
Interestingly, approximately 500,000 people turned up to watch Elon Musk shoot his car into space on a Falcon Heavy rocket.
Will local schools’ benefit?
Southern Launch is committed to engaging with local schools to assist in STEM subject education.
How will Southern Launch be promoting Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics (STEM)?
Southern Launch will sponsor dedicated rocket payloads for Australian schools from Whalers Way on a competitive basis. Watch our website over the coming months to find out more.
Every company that launches from Whalers Way will be asked to do a number of public outreach activities at local communities and schools. This will provide people with an overview of the amazing things happening in space, and the incredible machines that get satellite up there.
How will rocket launches affect shipping and air routes in the Launch Exclusion Corridor?
Rocket launches are controlled by the Australian Space Agency which ensures that the ocean and airspace areas directly affected by Launch Exclusion Areas are cordoned off. This will only happen for the minimum amount of time to ensure the least disruption to these services.
Will launches negatively affect recreational fishermen?
Any Launch Exclusion Area or Corridor will be off limits when the Australian Space Agency mandates that they be free of any non-authorised person.
Will people need to be evacuated from their homes during a launch?
An advantage of the Whalers Way Launch Site is that no people live within the planned Exclusion Areas, so nobody will need to be evacuated during launches.
Will hazardous chemicals be used?
International and Australian safety regulations prescribe which chemicals can be used for propulsion. The manufacture, transport and storage of these chemicals are tightly controlled by international and Australian laws and protocols.
How will chemical contamination of our environment be safeguarded?
Just as bulk petrol, diesel and other chemicals are transported and stored in specialised vehicles and containers, so too will rocket propellant chemicals follow laid down safety procedures.
What precautions does Southern Launch have in place for catastrophes?
Over many decades, the International Space Industry has developed protocols dictating the safety procedures and standards required for launch site licensing. These cater for, inter alia, system failures whilst the rocket is on the ground and in flight to orbital height. Public safety, property and the environment are strenuously safeguarded.
Southern Launch is committed to using these existing, time proven protocols and procedures.
How will Southern Launch ensure there is no bushfire risk?
Southern Launch will work with State and Federal Agencies to ensure that comprehensive fire-fighting equipment is installed on site. This equipment will always be ready and available for every launch.
How will the environment be protected?
Public safety and the environment are primary drivers for the Space Industry. International and National legislation and protocols, developed over many decades, dictate an extremely safety- conscious industry. Southern Launch will use the latest technologies to ensure the environment at the Whalers Way Orbital Launch Complex is protected.
Furthermore, Southern Launch is committed to conserving and nurturing the native fauna and flora of Whalers Way.
Will the rocket launches scare domestic and farm animals?
No. We expect the noise to be as loud as a thunderclap, less than a typical rock concert, and to only last for a few seconds.
The loudness of a rocket launch is directly related to how much thrust the rocket engine is producing. Modern large NASA type rockets produce roughly 140 decibels, and the small rockets like those to be launched at Whalers Way, will be far less powerful.
Will the public continue to have access to Whalers Way?
Between launches, the public will continue to have access to Whalers Way and will only be excluded from the immediate vicinity of the fenced launch sites.
Can I fly my drone at Whalers Way?
The Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority has specific rules regarding drone activity, which must always be complied with.
Will the launch site prevent the desalination plant from being built?
The launch site development will not adversely affect the desalination plant development or any other possible Lower Eyre Peninsular projects.
Can I come and watch a launch?
Sure! We will be organising dedicated viewing areas so that you and your family can come and watch.
How can the community get more information on rocket launches?
Southern Launch will be holding public outreach events in conjunction with Regional Development Australia Whyalla and Eyre Peninsula. Please check your local news outlet and our website, for details on when and where the next meeting will be held.