Last month, a suborbital prototype of a proposed orbital rocket went up in flames during liftoff, putting a stop to Taiwan Innovative Space Inc.’s plans to deploy a commercial smallsat launcher. TiSPACE intends to try again with the reserve rocket before the close of the year. TiSPACE, Taiwan’s first and sole commercial rocket business, is building the Hapith-5, a three-stage rocket capable of carrying a maximum of 300 kilograms of the payload to the sun-synchronous orbits.
A synthetic-rubber-propelled suborbital rocket named Hapith-I had barely started to lift off during a September 16 launch try from Whalers Way Orbital Launch Complex in Australia when it went on flames and fell over. Southern Launch, the launch site operator, stated in a statement on September 22 that no one was injured and that the local firefighters on hand for the test flight prevented the fire from spreading far beyond the launchpad. The fire was caused by an internal failure after the first stage activation of the two-stage rocket, according to Southern Launch.
“While this test launch vehicle did not take Australia to space, it provided our groups with useful data and insights that will aid TiSPACE in further refining their launch vehicle capabilities, and Southern Launch with the noise data and vibration required to support the significant breakthrough of the Whalers Way Orbital Launch Complex,” said Lloyd Damp, CEO of Southern Launch.
TiSPACE’s third launch effort in six days resulted in the Hapith-I fire. A countdown had been canceled the day before because a system had failed to come online. Five days prior, strong winds pushed a scrub. Hapith-I went up in flames and fell on starboard part of launch pad, according to Yen-Sen Chen, TiSPACE CEO. When the rocket dropped, the first-stage tank ruptured, but this rocket did not explode. After the rupture, tank pressure maintained about 9 bar, which Chen speculated was caused by “structural damage as a consequence of pipework coming apart as the rocket fell.”
The flame deflector “was burnt by the fire,” according to Chen, but the remainder of the launch pad was “unharmed.” According to Chen, a substance utilized at the rocket’s base went up in flames during ignition. The damaged rocket will not be utilized again, but Chen stated that Hapith-I launch missions will restart by the close of the year after two remaining rockets undergo “minimal material changes.”
Meanwhile, work on the 3-stage Hapith-5 smallsat launcher continues, with Chen estimating that it will fly for the first time “in the third quarter of 2022.” The first trip, he claimed, will deliver a 150-kilogram satellite into sun-synchronous orbit. The vehicle will deliver 300 kg of satellite payload to the SSO in the end. After its test flights, Hapith-I will play “multifunctional roles for a wide array of commercial applications,” according to the corporation.