Rockets of Today

HAPITH — Taiwan

The name Hapith means “flying squirrel” in the language of the Saisiyat, one of several peoples who were indigenous to Taiwan before the Chinese took over. About five thousand of them still live there. TiSPACE, the company building the Hapith rocket series, has in the past faced protests from indigenous peoples, but seems to have worked out a better relationship with them now.

The rocket itself is of a somewhat crude type, a hybrid using solid fuel and pressurized fluid oxidizer — to be specific, rubber and nitrous oxide. This kind of design can waste a lot of oxidizer, but they claim theirs is less wasteful than a solid rocket, as well as of course being safer since it’s possible to shut it off, and it’s supposedly impossible for a hybrid rocket to explode. (Tell that to Rocket Crafters) It’s deeply throttleable, and also restartable.

The Hapith V needs three stages to reach orbit (their suborbital Hapith I has two — it looks like the V without the bottom stage). The first stage uses five “Lelien 1C” motors, which can steer through liquid injection. The skinnier second stage has four Lelien 1B motors, which gimbal. The top stage, which is skinnier yet, has a single gimballed Lelien 1A. All use carbon fiber construction. All in all, it’s about twice as big as an Electron and offers similar capacity.

Their launch facility is is a relatively undeveloped area on Taiwan’s southeast coast, and they plan to expand it considerably if they are successful enough, but first they want to find another site in Scandinavia or Australia, as the local one doesn’t have a clear pathway for sun-synchronous launches, which is one of their main target markets.

Some souces say that the Taiwanese government would have loved to invest more directly in rockets, and developed the capability much sooner, but they were held back by diplomatic pressure based on fear of antagonizing mainland China. South Korea experienced some of that pressure too. In particular, the USA wanted both countries to not have solid fuel first stages, as these are ideal for building ICBMs with. With that kind of inhibition... an outfit like TiSPACE is what’s left.

Hapith-V: mass 23 t, diam 2.2 m, thrust 640 kN, imp unknown, hybrid (rubber and nitrous oxide), payload 0.3 t (1.3%), cost unknown.