Australia’s first commercial orbital launch facility to be built in South Australia
NewSpace company Southern Launch will begin developing the infrastructure to deploy nanosatellites from the Eyre Peninsula in South Australia
Southern Launch CEO Lloyd Damp said today that after an 18-month search for the perfect spot the company found a site at Whalers Way on the Eyre Peninsula for its launch pad.
“We looked at sites from Western Australia to Victoria that were suitable for a southern launch and provided the right safety for people and the environment and South Australia met all the criteria,” said Damp.
“Besides offering the ability to launch rockets into a polar or sun synchronous orbit, we also needed to have access to major infrastructure like ports and airports.”
Called the Whalers Way Orbital Launch Complex, the 1190-hectare site sits at the bottom of Eyre Peninsula, about 35 minutes’ drive from the regional centre of Port Lincoln. The complex is 300km northwest of Adelaide and 500km south of Woomera, the historic rocket launch site that is restricted to military use.
Damp said the startup was in discussions with domestic and international rocket manufacturers to begin designing and developing the necessary infrastructure at its site for launch vehicles and would begin construction early in 2019 with the aim of being operable by the end of the year.
“Both here and overseas I realised a lot of new companies were developing small rockets, but there weren’t many places to launch these rockets from and Australia has this really unique geography,” Damp said.
Southern Launch will target rockets with payloads between 50kg and 400kg, like Rocket Lab’s Electron, that carry microsatellites into polar or sun synchronous orbits to service Internet of Things applications such as monitoring agricultural land.
“There has been a huge shift in the space ecosystem from the old-space equatorial orbits for large telecoms and TV satellites to the NewSpace polar orbits for IoT,” Damp said.
“Satellites in a north-south orbit mean you need a smaller number of cheap satellites to observe the entire globe.”
Southern Launch is working with the South Australian government, the Australian Space Agency and other regulators to work through the regulations and assessments needed to launch from the site.
Rockets launched at the site will fly 500km south over the Great Australian Bight before reaching orbit.
Sitael Australia’s general manager Mark Ramsey said the Italian space company, which set up an office in Adelaide this year, would use the complex for its satellites.
“This will allow us to offer satellite customers the ability to launch out of Australia to these new orbits,” Ramsey said.
The site announcement came at the same time that South Australian startup Fleet Space Technologies launched its fourth nanonsatellite from different international sites.
The Adelaide-based IoT company’s second Centauri nanosatellite was successfully launched aboard SpaceX’s Falcon 9 SSO-A mission from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California this morning.
Fleet sent Centauri I aboard Indian Space Research Organisation’s PSLV-C43 mission on 29 November and launched experimental satellites Proxima I & II aboard Rocket Lab’s It’s Business Time manifest on 11 November.
Fleet Space co-founder and CEO Flavia Tata Nardini said both Proxima satellites and Centauri I were successfully completing their duties and the second Centauri satellite was expected to start transmitting data in the next few weeks.
“We’re thrilled to showcase Fleet Space Technologies’ capabilities to the world by launching our very own constellation of nanosatellites within a matter of weeks. It is incredible to work with industry heavyweights such as SpaceX, ISRO and Rocket Lab to help make our vision of building the global digital nervous system a reality,” Nardini said.
“There’s no time to rest, we’re on and upwards to provide our customers with global connectivity to solve the world’s future challenges from space.”
The news comes a day before Australia’s space industry meets at the 6th South Australia Space Forum in Adelaide to discuss the future of the industry and get an update from the newly-established Australian Space Agency.