40th anniversary of Australia's first satellite

Thursday, 29 November 2007

It is now 40 years since the University of Adelaide played a key role in launching Australia's first satellite.

Wresat, named after the former Weapons Research Establishment (WRE), was the name of the first Australian satellite, which was launched from Woomera, South Australia, on 29 November 1967.

It was a joint venture of the WRE and the University of Adelaide's Physics Department. The Wresat project was led by Bryan Rofe from the WRE and Professor John Henry Carver, who was Elder Professor and Head of Physics at the University of Adelaide at the time.

The current Head of the School of Chemistry & Physics at the University of Adelaide, Professor John Adrian Carver, is the son of the late Professor John Henry Carver. Professor Carver was nine years old when his father helped to launch Wresat into space.

"It was an incredible feat of organisation," Professor Carver says.

"The satellite was launched using a modified Redstone rocket donated by the Americans, but there was only an 11-month window for the Australian team to use the rocket before the Americans had to leave.

"This gave the WRE/University team 11 months to plan, design, build, test and execute the launch of the satellite. They managed to achieve it, and it was a huge success for Australia at that time, with much associated publicity in the media."

The satellite itself weighed 45 kilograms and was 1.59 metres long. It was built at the WRE, with the development of the satellite's experimental instrumentation and some of the satellite's testing being conducted at the University of Adelaide.

The battery-operated satellite was used to collect data about the composition of the upper atmosphere. It had enough power to send data during its first 73 orbits around the Earth.

It re-entered the atmosphere on 10 January 1968, over the Atlantic. Nothing of it remains.

"The successful launch of Wresat meant that Australia became the 4th country to launch its own satellite into space from its own territory, which is a significant achievement in itself, and a landmark in Australian science," Professor Carver says.


Contact Details

Professor John Carver
Email: john.carver@adelaide.edu.au
Website: http://www.chemphys.adelaide.edu.au/
Professor of Chemistry
School of Chemistry & Physics
The University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 3110
Mobile: 0434 075 097

Mr David Ellis
Email: david.ellis@adelaide.edu.au
Website: https://www.adelaide.edu.au/newsroom/
Deputy Director, Media and Corporate Relations
External Relations
The University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 5414
Mobile: +61 (0)421 612 762