Inaugural rocket launch postponed at Whalers Way

PROTEST: Athena Taylor and Angela Hearn display their 'Protect Our Wilderness' banner outside the entrance to Whalers Way. Photo: Jarrad Delaney
PROTEST: Athena Taylor and Angela Hearn display their 'Protect Our Wilderness' banner outside the entrance to Whalers Way. Photo: Jarrad Delaney

The first rocket launch at Whalers Way has been postponed due to weather with a future launch to be determined for the near future.

Southern Launch were preparing for the first launch of a rocket from Whalers Way on Friday, September 10, involving one of Taiwanese company tiSPACE's 10m tall Hapith One rockets.

A launch window of between 6am and 6pm was announced by the Australian Space Agency however Southern Launch, together with TiSPACE teams the agency decided to postpone it due to strong upper winds.

The decision was made after winds were monitored throughout the day using radiosondes, in conjunction with information from the Bureau of Meteorology, which determined that it was unsafe to launch.

Southern Launch chief executive officer Lloyd Damp said this was not an unforeseen outcome and everyone would need to wait before the first launch could happen.

"Space is hard and that's why we're taking an incremental approach to developing an Australian space launch capability," he said.

"We had planned and trained for this potential outcome, facing an external factor like weather which would result in our teams needing to postpone the launch.

"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."

Southern Launch will work with tiSPACE and the agency to determine a new launch date.

The company has temporary infrastructure in place to conduct up to three test launches before the end of the year.

Protesters make presence known at Whalers Way

A small group of protesters were outside the entrance to Whalers Way Friday morning with banners that included messages against Whalers Way being used as a launch site.

Angela Hearn said she and Athena Taylor had pulled up to the gate early in the morning and were soon met with police and security personnel, and a video recorded at the time showed Miss Taylor being physically removed from the road after they had stood in front of cars coming into the site holding up a banner which said 'Protect Our Wilderness'.

Ms Hearn said one major concern was about the test launch taking place while there were still southern right whales in the area.

"Southern Launch said at the community meeting they would not launch if there's whales in the bay, but there's whales in the bay right now," she said.

A Southern Launch spokesperson said they were alerted that a couple of vehicles had been driven into the gateway blocking the entrance this morning and as emergency services were already onsite in preparation for the launch day the police were able to deal with the matter quickly.

"We thank SAPOL for their quick action in settling this matter.

"We also thank our local security team from Port Lincoln, for their professionalism in responding to the matter."

Also among the protesters were members of the Barngarla community who expressed concern for the impact the rocket launches will have on the land at Whalers Way and on whales as it was a historical nursery site.

BANNER: Evelyn, Elizabeth, Breannah and David Richards hold up a banner with artwork by Vera Richards depicting a whale in protest of rocket launches at Whalers Way. Photo: Jarrad Delaney

BANNER: Evelyn, Elizabeth, Breannah and David Richards hold up a banner with artwork by Vera Richards depicting a whale in protest of rocket launches at Whalers Way. Photo: Jarrad Delaney

Members of the community displayed a banner with artwork, created by artist Vera Richards, depicting a whale.

Barngarla elder Elizabeth Richards said she was sad because she was afraid the whales would disappear from the area.

"We talk about the numina whale at Tunarama, that's our story and now they're going to set a rocket off today,"

"It's wrong what they're doing here, it's a beautiful place."

On addressing the whale concerns, the Southern Launch spokesperson said maritime and drone security was used to monitor any activity within the water exclusion zone near the launch site.

"We are aware of whales being spotted in Boston Bay on the other side of the Eyre Peninsula some 30 kilometres away but we have not seen any whale activity within our maritime zone."

A police spokesperson said officers had monitored the protest near Whalers Way, where the test launch was set to take place.

"There have been no arrests, and the majority of protesters are behaving in an orderly manner."

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