50 years ago today, Australia entered the space club

First published in The Sydney Morning Herald on November 30, 1967

Australia’s first satellite, launched in swirling red dust at Woomera rocket range yesterday, was in its seventh orbit at 1 a.m. today. The 160lb satellite, lifted aloft by a U.S. Redstone rocket, was circling the earth each 100 minutes at five miles a second as it returned scientific data to world tracking stations.

Australia is now the fourth nation to have it’s own satellite put into orbit from its own territory. The others are the United States, Russia and France. It was 97 degrees in the shade and 115 degrees in the sun as about 200 visitors, scientists and technicians watched the launching from 24 miles away. The 71ft white rocket shivered in a heat haze and was surrounded by willy-willys which flung the red dust upwards. It lifted off slowly at 2.18 p.m.

It took Australian scientists and engineers at the Weapons Research Establishment and Adelaide University 12 months to design and build the 5ft high black cone-shaped satellite and Australian and U.S. rocket experts only 5 minutes 30 seconds to get it into orbit.

The satellite went into orbit at a higher velocity than planned and will range between 100 and 700 miles up.

The Minister for Supply, Senator N.H.D. Henty, followed the launching at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration communications centre at Deakin. A.C.T. He heard the countdown, the firing, then voices coming in from tracking stations around the world as the Australian satellite came into each area.

The first report came from Guam, about 20 minutes after lift-off. This was followed by reports from Alaska, Newfoundland, Carolina, and stations down the west coast of South America. Supply Department officials said tonight that although on some orbits the satellite would pass near Sydney it would not be visible. This was because it was painted black and would not reflect light at the great height at which it travelled.

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