Southern Launch to establish sub-orbital rocket testing facility in SA

Southern Launch

Commonwealth approval has been granted for a second rocket launch facility licence, awarded to space company Southern Launch in South Australia, further growing the country’s civil space sector. 

The licence will enable Southern Launch to establish a sub-orbital rocket testing facility at Whalers Way, located 680km west of Adelaide. If tests are successful, the site could be used for much larger orbital rocket launches in the future.  

This is an essential 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,” minister for Industry, Science and Technology Christian Porter said. 

“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. 

“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 sub-orbital rockets. Data will be collected during the launches to measure environmental impacts, to determine the site’s viability as a possible launch location for future launches.  

The approval of the Whalers Way launch facility licence is a strong sign of the nation’s maturing launch capability, Australian Space Agency head Enrico Palermo said. 

“Momentum in Australia’s civil space sector is growing every day, signalled by increasing private investment and associated job creation,” Palermo 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 Southern Launch facility licence for Whalers Way follows the granting of Australia’s first launch facility licence for Southern Launch’s Koonibba Test Range in March 2021.  

It has also been announced that the federal government will defer the introduction of partial cost recovery for launch applications submitted under the Space (Launches and Returns) Act 2018, until 1 July 2022. This deferral of fees will encourage more launch activity, continued investment and growth in the broader space sector.  

Since 2018, the federal government has invested over $700 million in the civil space sector in its plan to grow the sector to $12 billion and add another 20,000 jobs by 2030.  

Access to Space is one of seven civil space priority areas set out in the Advancing Space: Australian Civil Space Strategy 2019-2028. 

It will be supported by a forthcoming technical roadmap to explore the future of Australia’s launch market opportunity to continue growing a thriving and globally respected space sector. 

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