The Department of Science and Innovation has confirmed that they conducted a successful rocket launch this week, breaking both domestic and continental records in the process.
The event saw the test rocket travel 17.9 km into the air – achieving a new African hybrid rocket altitude record. The projectile also reached speeds nearing the 2 500k/ph mark. Science and Innovation fall under the portfolio of Minister Blade Nzimande, and he hailed the rocket launch as a ‘historic moment’ for South African space studies.
Records were smashed when the mission took place at the Denel Overberg Test Range in the Western Cape on 8 March 2021. Researchers from the University of KwaZulu-Natal, who constructed the Phoenix-1B Mark IIr sounding rocket, reached the highest of earthly heights on Wednesday. And the sky will no longer be their limit going forward…
The launch proved to be third time lucky for the team of students after earlier failures in 2014 and 2019.
The university’s Aerospace Systems Research Group (ASReG) is leading South Africa’s charge in applied rocket propulsion programmes. Funded by the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI), the research group was founded in 2009 and has focused on developing hybrid rockets. The rockets use a mix of liquid and solid propellants, to launch sounding equipment into space.
Sounding rockets, unlike satellites which orbit around the earth, carry experimental payloads for research purposes. These instruments are used to study astronomy, astrophysics, materials science, and meteorology.
An official statement from the government hailed the scientific achievements witnessed this week – revealing that the groundwork has now been laid to use South Africa space research as a vehicle for job creation and poverty eradication:
“The Phoenix-1B Mark IIr is the third rocket variant to be developed by the UKZN’s Aerospace Systems Research Group (ASReG), which is funded by the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI). Valuable lessons were learned from past failures, which assisted in today’s successful launch. Minister Blade Nzimande says it has been ‘a gamechanger’.”
“The developers of the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s rocket confirmed that the projectile was launched seawards and was not recovered after going twice the speed of sound on Sunday – It is envisaged that the space industry will be one of the key drivers in addressing SA’s national priorities of job creation, poverty eradication, and rural development.”