South Australia’s reputation as the centre for the nation’s space startups has been boosted by federal government approval for a second rocket launch facility licence on the state’s Eyre Peninsula.
The licence has gone to four-year-old space startup Southern Launch to establish a sub-orbital rocket testing facility at Whalers Way, near Port Lincoln, 680km west of Adelaide. The rockets will launch southwards over the Great Australian Bight.
If tests are successful, the site could be used for much larger orbital rocket launches in the future, with a focus on launching satellites into orbit around the Earth’s poles to support the Internet of Things (IoT), Earth Observations (EO) and space communications industries.
The Whalers Way site is Southern Launch’s second launch facility after it was also granted federal approval for its Koonibba Test Range, near Ceduna, in March. Koonibba is the world’s largest privately owned rocket test range and hosted by the local Aboriginal community on their traditional lands.
Southern Launch CEO Lloyd Damp said construction of Pad 1 at Whalers Way had begun, with the first of up to three test launches from the Whalers Way Orbital Launch Complex scheduled before the end of the year.
“This is a momentous occasion for our team, to have been granted Australia’s first fixed space launch facility license, enabling Southern Launch to host rocket launches into space from Australian shores,” he said.
“Our team is now on track to commence the testing of three rocket launches from Whalers Way before the end of 2021. These tests signify a very real opportunity for Australia – becoming once again a space faring nation.”
Federal Industry, Science and Technology minister Christian Porter said the approval for Whaler’s Way was an important step forward in establishing Australia’s commercial launch capabilities.
“The global space launch services market is expected to reach US$29.6 billion by 2027. Australia has a unique opportunity to be part of this exciting and growing industry, given our geographical advantages which make us an attractive destination for launch activities,” he said.
“Building our capability in this area will also help to unlock significant opportunities for local industries and drive job growth across the advanced manufacturing sector.”
The Whalers Way site will initially support a test launch campaign for up to three suborbital rockets. Data from those launches to measure environmental impacts to assist in determining the site’s viability as a possible launch location for future suborbital and orbital launches.
Australian Space Agency boss Enrico Palermo said the approval was sign of the nation’s maturing launch capability.
“Momentum in Australia’s civil space sector is growing every day, signalled by increasing private investment and associated job creation,” he said.
“This approval provides the emerging launch sector with the confidence of the Australian Space Agency’s intention to grow Australia’s launch capability and infrastructure, in alignment with our civil space strategy.”
The approval comes after the Minister announced the deferral of cost recovery on launch applications for another year, until 2022, to support the local space sector.