Rocket science on Tolarno Station

Sydney University’s rocket launch on Tolarno Station will lead to the clean-up of space debris.

Soaring four times higher than the local Wedge-tailed Eagles, a Sydney University rocket launched near Menindee Lakes recently.

“The rocket travelled at 651 metres per second to 30,000 feet (over nine kilometres), the researchers told me,” said Rob McBride, owner of the impromptu launch site at Tolarno Station, which is between Menindee and Pooncarie.

“There was a little explosion, which releases one parachute, then at 10,000 feet it releases another parachute.”

The successful launch resulted in the rocket components being located three kilometres away.

“The three components were the head, the main thruster, which had all the propulsion unit in the guts of it, and the tail,” said Mr McBride.


Thirty four of the 40 students involved in the research project travelled to Tolarno Station for a couple of days to test the Bluewren, or Muruduwin in the Gadigal language, rocket.

The rocket launch was to test the students’ entry for the Spaceport America Cup competition in New Mexico, America, which commences on June 21, and the ultimate aim of the research is to clean up space debris.

The prize-winning Sydney University Rocketry Team has designed, built and tested five rockets.

Other research projects include simulation and modelling software and a hybrid rocket engine to propel future competition vehicles.

The team is also developing a payload project to demonstrate detumbling manoeuvres for light-weight satellites in a space environment.

It’s the first time that logos for the Darling-Baaka River and Tolarno Station were included on a rocket.

“So it’s the first time the Darling-Baaka and Tolarno station went into space,” said Mr McBride.

Tolarno Station’s owner is very proud to see technology reaching the outback and the opportunities this creates.

“We hope the technology takes the Darling-Baaka forward so all Australia gets to know about it,” he said.

“Our goal was to expand the knowledge of city people about killing the river.

“We were interested in their science and they were equally interested in learning about their heartland.”

Tolarno Station will also launch on ABC TV and ABC iview next month in a documentary by Miriam Margolyes called ‘Australia Unmasked 2022.’ COVID has exposed societal fault-lines and Miriam’s exploration of Australia’s ‘fair go’ includes perspectives from Rob and his wife, Kate McBride.

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