It was meant to be a moment of glory for South African science. But dreams of a successful South African sounding rocket launch on 18 February fell flat when the propulsion system failed moments after takeoff.
The Phoenix-1B Mk II sounding rocket had been developed by the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Aerospace Systems Research Group. Its job is to take scientific equipment to the edge of the atmosphere to carry out experiments in astronomy and meteorology, among other tasks.
Africa has no sounding rocket capacity. The Phoenix-1B would put South Africa on a par with countries such as Japan, Sweden, Norway, Brazil, the United States and Australia, the Department of Science and Technology said in a statement.