Australian regulators have given Taiwan Innovative Space, a five-year-old launch company that goes by Tispace, the green light to conduct a commercial launch at a newly licensed facility in southern Australia later this year.
Tispace will conduct a test flight of its two-stage, suborbital rocket Hapith I from the Whalers Way Orbital Launch Complex in Southern Australia. The flight will be used to validate the vehicle’s propulsion, guidance, telemetry and structure systems, Tispace said in a news release. The launch facility, operated by space infrastructure company Southern Launch, received its license from the country’s industry ministry in March.
The news is potentially significant for both Australia and Taiwan’s burgeoning space industries, which have lagged behind other nations'. Australia only established a domestic space agency in 2018, and interest in how the country can get in on the new space economy has only grown since. The newly licensed launch facility will initially support a test launch campaign for up to three suborbital rockets, in order to collect data on the possible environmental impacts of the site.
“This [launch permit approval] is an important outcome in establishing Australia’s commercial launch capability and demonstrating what our country can offer to the international space sector,” Australia’s Minister for Industry, Science and Technology, Christian Porter, said in a statement. “Space is a significant global growth market that will support Australia’s economic future through big investment, new technologies and job growth across multiple industries.”
Taiwan has also been slow to develop a home-grown space industry, though the country took a major step forward when Taiwanese legislators passed the Space Development Law in May to spur the development of a domestic space program. But while the country has a handful of satellites in orbit -- most recently the YUSAT and IDEASSat CubeSats, which were transported into orbit on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral in January -- it has yet to launch a rocket or spacecraft from its soil.
Hapith I is Taiwan’s first domestically manufactured rocket, and Tispace its first commercial space launch company. The company had planned to test the Hapith vehicle from a launch site in Taiwan, but the site was scrapped over legal issues concerning the location. In addition to launch, Tispace may start conducting even more of its operations abroad: According to an Australian press release, it’s also considering “bringing manufacturing of complete rocket systems” to the land down under.