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SA rocket catches fire on launch pad

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A test rocket set to lift-off from an Eyre Peninsula conservation zone has caught fire on the pad on its third attempt to launch in a week.

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After two previous unsuccessful attempts, Taiwanese company TiSPACE tried on Thursday to launch its 10-metre, two stage sub-orbital Hapith I rocket from the Whalers Way site.

Previous efforts on Friday last week and on Wednesday were aborted, the first because of bad weather and the second due to a systems fault.

Southern Launch, which operates the Whalers Way facility located around 25km southwest of Port Lincoln, said the launch was attempted again just after 4pm on Thursday, but an internal fault during ignition caused it to catch fire.

The company said the fire was contained to the launch pad and extinguished by Country Fire Service crews on the scene, with no injuries resulting from the blaze.

TiSPACE had planned to use the launch to test its hybrid propulsion systems, and as a prelude to commercial launches of satellites in the future.

The third launch failure comes after environmentalists last week called on Southern Launch to consider a different site for a permanent launch facility, citing “major concerns” on the potential impact to threatened bird species.

The company is still awaiting approval to build two permanent launchpads at the Whalers Way site to host regular satellite launches into orbit around the Earth’s poles.

Southern Launch had planned to use Thursday’s test launch to gather noise and vibration data to determine the impact of rocket launches on native wildlife.

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