Australia’s first private space rocket has successfully left Koonibba Aboriginal community, where it is being prepped for its first launch.
Mixed feelings have been expressed over the launch, and concerns are that it might be the first of many.
While the plant manager did not talk about the fate of workers, community leader Boyd MacIvor said it was a huge relief to finally get a lift-off.
“The foreman … it’s a really nice day today, the spirits are high, everyone’s happy, you know, this is very exciting for us and it’s been a hard ride,” he said.
“For that, at least now we know we can go for a ride, we’ve been waiting for something for a long time.”
This is the first launch for the Aerojet Rocketdyne Rocketdyne Corporation, also known as Rocketdyne.Advertisement
The company received a generous $33 million contract to provide Australia’s most important rocket engines and test materials for the U.S. space agency, NASA.
The only launch under its contract, the booster rocket for the commercial space plane SpaceX, is due to blast off from Cape Canaveral on Wednesday.
Most of the 93,000 people at the launch complex seemed relaxed and happy about the highly anticipated venture into space.
And although no one is yet sure if any of the people who make up Rocketdyne, originally from outback Northern Territory, will be returning home, most don’t want to get involved in any trouble.
Despite worrying about the safety of the people behind the B-62 fuelling liquid-air propellant rocket, which will replace the Navy’s Fairfailing B-62 booster, the launch managers have done everything possible to minimise risk, concentrating on training and controlling it as efficiently as possible.
Rocketdyne has tested the B-62-2 rocket at three of the same locations used to drive the B-61 warhead around the world for more than 40 years, thus becoming a United States national, and protecting its crews.
Officials were able to test its stability in mountainous terrain, which experts thought might make it susceptible to freezing and heat stress, and its able to survive a crash.
But not everyone is convinced the same can be said for the rocket.
Concern has already been expressed about the environmental impact, whether there will be more releases into the nearby Murrumbidgee River, or more hydrogen being released into the atmosphere if the launch does take place.
Regardless, most things were taken care of by Rocketdyne with “in no way perfect”, according to engineer Andrew Smedley.
He said the problems with the combustors might have been resolved with the aid of several hundred pounds of steel plates to be built into the materials for the rocket.
Rene Nani, the media relations manager of Rocketdyne Australasia, said they were a happy camper, with people feeling relatively calm despite everything happening on the outside.
“When we operate on the ground, we’re looking at our operational control centre when this thing happens,” he said.
“We do a morning check, and as soon as we’re there, we finish that check and we do a whole day of handover for all those part-time staff, the support staff, then the administration staff. We have a lot of intensive training in that area, and there’s a lot of redundancy.”
The launch has caused locals to rally together in the only way they know how: by singing songs and chanting.
Sonja Townsend has been working on the rigina section of the B-62-2 rocket, leaving her home at 5am to join the crowd, which includes nearby residents.
“It’s not a good thing to be honest,” she said.
“But you know, there’s no way we can tell you we won’t be here.”
For the excited Rocketdyne employees, only half of the excitement is known.
While no one is certain about what they will eat while they wait in a soggy lounge room, there will be a lot of pizza as people wait to be reunited with the base.
“We thought that we had taken back a few days,” Mr Smedley said.
“But, you know, there’s always that always…when things are really good, that time is almost over, and at the moment, it’s quite idyllic.
“We’ll be coming back tomorrow…we’ll have a meal, we’ll have a drink and a bit of company, and then we’ll try and recover and come back and continue to work.”