UKZN to launch sounding rocket at Overberg


The University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) will test launch the UKZN Phoenix-1B sounding rocket at the Denel Overberg Test Range in the Western Cape next week.

The launch is scheduled to take place on 18 February 2019, but unanticipated logistical and weather-related factors may result in the launch being postponed to a later date.

The launch is being undertaken as part of the University’s Phoenix Hybrid Sounding Rocket Programme, which seeks to develop an indigenous series of sounding rockets to serve the needs of the South African and African scientific research communities. Internationally, sounding rockets have and continue to play a crucial role in the facilitation of experiments conducted in a wide variety of scientific disciplines, including bio-technology, astronomy, astrophysics, materials science and meteorology, among many others, the Department of Science and Technology said.

The Phoenix-1B sounding rocket has been developed as a technology demonstration platform, and is expected to reach an altitude of 15 km during its flight.

The Department of Science and Technology is funding the project, which has enabled the university to develop key expertise in the engineering disciplines of rocket propulsion technology, launch vehicle design and flight dynamics modelling, as well as the development of appreciable human capital. It has also enabled unique cooperation between the University and industry.

In August 2014 the UKZN launched the 4.4 metre Phoenix-1A hybrid fuel sounding rocket, future versions of which will carry scientific instruments 100km into the upper atmosphere. It was flown from the Denel Overberg Test Range after being launched from the custom built Mobile Rocket Launch Platform (MRLP). The UKZN subsequently developed the Phoenix 1B rocket, designed to reach an altitude of 15 km, and is working on the improved Phoenix 1B Mk II, which should reach 35 km.

The sounding rocket programme is being developed by the UKZN’s Mechanical Engineering department’s Aerospace Systems Research Group (ASReg).