Rocket blasts Queensland and Goondiwindi into the space age

We could tell you how Queensland plans to home in on the world’s burgeoning $360billion a year aero-space program.

And how it was launched today in a fly-infested paddock 100km west of Goondiwindi, not too far from the Tarawera recreation ground infamous for its “carpet” of dust, sand and marthaguy flea, a burr much feared by bush cricketers for its tenacity.

Which brings us to the story we will bring you: the tenacity of men and women who dare to dream.

Such as Blake Nikolic, the Director of Operations for Black Sky Aerospace (BSA), the driving force behind yesterday’s launch of Australia’s first commercial sub-orbital rocket.

But we prefer to talk about his other role, as the son of Peter, a maths and science teacher who ran outside as a young boy on the night of October 4, 1957, searching past the Southern Cross and beyond for Sputnik 1, the world’s first artificial satellite.

That boy Peter became a self-confessed  “rocket nut”.

Blake Nikolic couldn’t help but be infected with the same bug.

And today a media scrum was surrounded by them and it was indeed infectious.

How could it not be. We spoke to Warren, who like Peter and many of his generation, raced out into the backyard to search for that moving dot across the night sky in 1957.

We couldn’t help but bring up one of our favorite films, October Skies.

It tells the story of Homer H. Hickam, Jr., a coal miner's son who was inspired by the launch of Sputnik 1 to take up rocketry against his father's wishes and eventually became a NASA engineer.

 “I met him a few years ago,” Warren said.

“And we’ve got a lot in common.

“We were both inspired by Sputnik. We both built our own rockets and we both won state science awards…..He became a NASA scientist I became a prep teacher.”

We promised we wouldn’t make too big a deal of Warren’s story.

“This is a big deal you know, people have worked so hard. I don’t want to take anything away from Blake and everyone’s work,” he said.

Sorry Warren, but we don’t think you will. You only add to it, because you are a sign that something special indeed did happen in, of all places, a paddock between Tarawera and Westmar, two places most Australians have never heard of.

Not that it hadn’t happened before, as the Queensland Minister for State Development, Manufacturing, Infrastructure and Planning, Cameron Dick said.

“Ninety years ago this year 26,000 people went to another paddock, the Eagle Farm Airport. Four men stepped out of an aircraft.  One of those was Charles Kingsford Smith.”

It was the first flight across the Pacific.

“Ninety years later men and women here are at the cutting edge of science, of aviation and space technology.

“Today Queensland enters the space age...It’s a great leap for our State and Australia,” he said.

“We are building a new economy and in this case it is rocket science”. And due to some of the most “innovative people in the world” the “Queensland sky isn’t the limit, we can go beyond that,” Mr Dick said.

We couldn’t help but think of those young boys who gazed heavenwards way back in 1957 and wondered if they wished they had been born 60 years later?

Mr Dick had earlier paid tribute to the “passion” of those of all involved.

And after seeing our first live rocket launch we can understand something of that “wow”.

At first we were  a little underwhelmed by its size.

Three to four metres tall, a bush journo’s rough guess, and narrow at the waist.

But as they say, it’s the fight in the dog, well, wow.

There was at “blast off” a moment’s pause and then a hint of dust which quickly roiled upwards, and cameras began to whir and click and then, it was gone, followed by gasps and and finally, “did you get it”, said with genuine awe.

A look from the  camera skywards and hope of capturing the distant arrow was a forlorn twinge of regret we hadn’t heeded an earlier story from Warren.

“I’m building a rocket at the moment. It does Mark 2.5 (2.5 times the speed of sound. One second its there and the next, it’s not”.

He was right.

For those who want the other story, here it is.

Forget Cape Canaveral.

Australia’s first ever rocket launch with a commercial payload  blasted off from an isolated paddock...near Tooobeah, yesterday.

And despite that paddock being located, literally on a “Funny Farm”, it’s no joke.

The launch is a test run that will pave the way forward for space technology to collect data for industries such as mining, farming and communications. 

“The benefits of Australia launching our own rockets include revenue into local supply chains, ease of international regulatory burdens and decreased turnaround times,” Blake Nikolic, Director of Operations for Black Sky Aerospace (BSA) said

 “With a global market worth US$360 billion seeing exponential growth, Australia will naturally benefit by companies like BSA supporting the ever growing satellite market and beyond,” Mr Nikolic said. BSA specialises in payload delivery systems through propulsion systems and vehicles that provides access to calibration and simulation systems that redefines the way traditional data is acquired.

“Simply put, we don’t need to send a multi-billion dollar satellite in to space to collect data on our farmer’s crops any more. A successful launch of the Sighter190 subscale sounding rocket will see space and satellite accessibility more affordable and much more sustainable for small and medium-sized business,” he said.

Supporting the first ever rocket launch with a commercial payload is University of Queensland and Hypersonix founder Professor Michael Smart, who are part of the team supplying a carbon-composite panel for the launch payload. The payload will include three commercial sensor packages from Hypersonix, Australian Centre for Space Engineering Research (ACSER) and Dekunu Technologies.

PS: Why a paddock around Tarawera?

Two reasons. One, a lack of other air traffic apart form a million or so flies.

And two, a good working relationship with property owner, Roger Mulckey.

MORE to come – it’s good news for Goondiwindi