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Wednesday, December 19, 2007


Belated Anniversary: the 40th Anniversary of WREsat

I can't believe this. As a space nerd, and a longtime fan of Woomera, I missed out on the 40th anniversary of the launch of Wresat, Australia's first Satellite. Growing up as a space obsessed kid in 1960's Australia I luxuriated in the warm glow of knowing Australia had it's own space launch site. True, most of those launches were sub-orbital sounding flights, but we launched actual rockets to the very edge of space (and the occasional satellite, sometimes they didn't blow up).

In 1967 a redstone rocket booster was donated by the Americans, and a team form the Weapons Research Establishment (WRE) and the Physics Department at Adelaide University planed, built and launched Wresat in 11 months. Ironically, my colleague John Carver's father, (also John Carver) was one of the leaders of the satellite team. You can read a longer article about the satellite development and launch here. The satellite collected data on the upper atmosphere and worked for 73 orbits before the battery failed.

So what do I remember about this amazing feat of planning and engineering, leading to Australia being one of the few satellite capable countries, a mere two years before humans walked on the Moon.

Nothing, absolutely nothing. I'm sure I would have remembered if it had turned up in the newspaper (we didn't have TV in our house then), or on the radio. It might have been feted in the Southern States, but I'm pretty sure no news made it's way up to QLD. The 40th anniversary also passed unnoticed by the ABC or major Australian new outlets. I find it very sad that Australia's space achievements are so undervalued.


Hi Ian

Found your post via the 34th Carnival of Space. I did an engineering assignment based on WRESAT and I agree with the tragedy of Australian short-sightedness. We never lived up to the dream of spaceflight that the Woomera range could have brought about - look at Clarke's "Prelude to Space" for what we could have done!

I rue the fact we never went ahead and developed more nukes in this country, but I guess cheap coal and political gutlessness strangled that baby in its crib.
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