Australia’s first sub-orbital rocket with commercial payload launched


Australia’s first sub-orbital rocket launch with a commercial payload took place this week in Queensland, demonstrating the capability of the state’s advanced manufacturing sector.

The Logan-based company Black Sky Aerospace successfully tested their Sighter190 rocket in Westmar, five hours west of Brisbane.

Using the company’s Rapid Deployment Sounding Rocket (RDSR) technology, the four-metre-long rocket was launched to an altitude of around 17,000 feet and reached 1.2 times the speed of sound at top speed.

“Black Sky Aerospace is proof Queensland can play a leading role in designing and manufacturing rocket and satellite technologies, including for projects like data collection for the communications, farming and mining industries,” said Queensland’s state development, manufacturing and infrastructure minister Cameron Dick.

“We want to promote Queensland’s capabilities to national and international space industry markets and today’s test at what is Australia’s only commercial sub-orbital launch site right here in our backyard is a substantial step forward in achieving that aim.”

The rocket was carrying a sensor suite from Hypersonix, another Queensland-based aerospace venture which has grown out of the world-leading scramjet work being undertaken at The University of Queensland (UQ).

Black Sky Aerospace’s rocket at the Westmar launch site. Source:

“This test launch is giving Hypersonix a rare and invaluable opportunity to test the behaviour of their advanced composite materials at a significant altitude,” Dick said.

“The data collected from this test will help push the boundaries of hypersonic flight – a field with incredible potential to shape the future of transport and space travel.”

Sensor packages from the Australian Centre for Space Engineering Research and DEKUNU Technologies were also on board Black Sky Aerospace’s rocket.

UQ researchers created a ceramic matrix composite panel that formed part of the rocket’s body.

PhD student Christian Kudisonga said the launch demonstrated the University’s ability to create technology and materials for Queensland’s emerging space industry.

“The part we’ve provided demonstrates a number of manufacturing processes that I have researched and developed as part of my PhD,” Kudisonga said.

“We’re hoping to get some useful data back from the launch and, in the long run, build on our skills to make more mission-critical parts.”

Blake Nikolic, Black Sky Aerospace director of operations, said the benefits of Australia launching its own rockets included revenue into local supply chains, ease of international regulatory burdens and decreased turnaround times.

“With a global market worth $496 billion seeing exponential growth, Australia will naturally benefit by companies like BSA supporting the ever-growing satellite market and beyond,” Nikolic said.

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