On 13 March 2023, the Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, Blade Nzimande, announced plans to launch two hybrid rockets, the Phoenix 1-C and Phoenix 1-D, developed by students at the University of KwaZulu Natal’s Aerospace Research Institute (ASRI). The Minister added that the launch would occur between 13-17 March at the Denel Overberg Test Range in the Western Cape. The Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) funds the space programme at the University of KwaZulu Natal’s Aerospace Research Institute (ASRI).
Subsequently, Phoenix-1C and Phoenix-1D have been successfully launched from the Overberg Test Range. Phoenix-1C launched on 14 March 2023 was a low-altitude rocket carrying experimental payloads for the Durban University of Technology, the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, and the South African National Space Agency. It has a 5 -10km target and expects to recover its nose cone under a parachute.
Check here to watch the lift-off of Phoenix-1C from the Overberg Testing Range in Arniston.
Furthermore, Phoenix-1D launched on 13 March 2023, was a higher-altitude rocket, and weather-permitting launched over the Indian Ocean, unrecovered, to be tracked by radar from lift-off to ocean impact. If conditions are good, the Phoenix-1D was expected to attain an altitude of up to 25 km.
During his address following the launch, the Minister commended the efforts of the mechanical engineering students at the UKZN driving the innovative programme which resulted in successful launches. In addition, the Minister reiterated how South Africa had broken a record in their launch of Phoenix-1B Mark IIr sounding rocket in March 2021, where it travelled 17.9km into the air achieving a new African hybrid rocket altitude record. The 2021 launch was integral to South Africa’s satellite engineering and development of the country’s rocket launch capabilities. Nzimande also pointed to the role of past failures in improving their knowledge where in the past, Phoenix-1A experienced nozzle failure then, the Phoenix -1B experienced software failure. The Phoenix-1B Mark IIr hybrid rocket was developed by postgraduate students under the supervision of ASReG, reaching almost 18 km and a velocity of twice the speed of sound,” Nzimande said.
Nzimande added that the continued advancement and sustainability of the industry would also present opportunities to turn South Africa into a knowledge-based economy, to promote human capacity development and a launching capability in particular, and to play a key role in implementing an African space policy and strategy.
The Minister reiterated the need to ensure the long-term progression and sustainability of the South African space industry and unlock dedicated investment for exploring the country’s capabilities.
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