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Australian Air Force launches first payload on locally-developed rocket

Australian Dart rocket launch
Photo: Twitter/Australian defense industry Melissa Price

The Australian Air Force has launched a payload on a 34-kilogram Dart rocket, with takeoff taking place at the Koonibba Rocket Range in South Australia on September 19.

The event marked the first commercial rocket launch to the edge of space from Australia.

At just 3.4 meters long, the Dart rocket is a fraction of the size of rockets launched by NASA and SpaceX.

Australian defense minister Linda Reynolds said space was an increasingly important domain, which is why the government is investing AU$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 provides a stepping stone for Air Force to explore how advanced rapidly deployable networked sensors can be employed to provide information across defense networks,” Minister 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.”

“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,” Australian defense industry minister Melissa Price added.

The 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.