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Launch of UKZN Aerospace Institute



Launch of UKZN Aerospace Institute

Launch of UKZN Aerospace Institute. The University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) has inaugurated the Aerospace Systems Research Institute (Asri) in collaboration with the Department of Science and Innovation. This groundbreaking initiative is set to develop a home-grown commercial launch vehicle, aiming to place satellites into orbit from South African soil.

With this ambitious project, South Africa is poised to join the global space race within a few years, according to leading aerospace experts.

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Asri Mission and Vision

Asri is spearheaded by Professor Michael Brooks, the founding director and a renowned figure in the field of aerospace. At the official launch of the institute, Professor Brooks highlighted the technical challenges of rocketry, emphasizing the need for a comprehensive ecosystem of technologies and capabilities.

Asri primary mission is to create an indigenous commercial space launch capability for South Africa, leveraging local expertise and innovation.

Historical Background

The journey towards establishing Asri began in 2009 with the formation of the Aerospace Systems Research Group by Professor Brooks. This group laid the foundation for what would eventually become the Aerospace Systems Research Institute. Asri was formally established by the UKZN council in 2022 and is housed within the university’s discipline of mechanical engineering.

Technological Achievements

Asri engineers have made significant strides in rocketry, achieving notable technical milestones:

  • New African Altitude Record: The institute set a new altitude record for suborbital hybrid rockets, showcasing their advanced capabilities.
  • Powerful Liquid Rocket Engine: Asri developed and tested the most powerful university-built liquid rocket engine on the African continent.
  • Unique Testing Facilities: The institute established specialized ground test facilities for hybrid and liquid (cryogenic) rocket propulsion systems, further enhancing their research and development efforts.

Future Prospects

With continuous support from UKZN and the Department of Science and Innovation, Asri is on a path to revolutionize South Africa space capabilities. The institute’s focus on building and testing research rocket motors and flying suborbital rockets has already yielded promising results.

Professor Brooks emphasized the complexity of rocketry, noting that despite thorough simulations and component tests, real-world launches are the ultimate test of a rocket’s performance.


UKZN’s Aerospace Systems Research Institute is paving the way for South Africa’s entry into the commercial space sector, fostering innovation and establishing a robust indigenous space launch capability.

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