SA rocket launch facility could create big economic benefits

Max Blenkin

South Australia’s proposed Whalers Way space launch facility has the potential to inject $318 million into the SA economy as well as create hundreds of new jobs.

SA rocket launch facility could create big economic benefits
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According to an economic analysis of the forecast benefits, the launch site at the bottom of the Eyre Peninsula could also create 568 jobs over a decade for each rocket manufacturer who uses the facility.

The report was prepared by the South Australian Centre for Economic Studies, a research unit of the University of Adelaide, which examined the potential financial and employment impacts of the launch facility operating in various modes.

That included operating as a stand-alone entity, as an assembly and testing facility and in conjunction with a launch vehicle manufacturer.

Projected impacts ranged from 60 jobs and a boost of $35.4 million to gross state product over 10 years to 568 jobs and $318.4 million.

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The facility has been proposed by Southern Launch, which has already signed its first customer, Korean space start-up Perigee Aerospace, which is planning its first launch for next year.

Southern Launch examined a number of possible locations across Western Australia, Victoria and South Australia before settling on the a 1,190 hectare site at Whalers Way.

That had the advantages of proximity to a nearby town, Port Lincoln, as well as an airport and harbour for delivery of rockets and components.

The site is also clear of major air traffic routes and launching south, rockets pass over ocean. The location is well suited to launches into polar or polar-like orbits.

In September, the South Australian government declared the proposed launch facility a major development, opening the way for acceleration of the development process.

Whalers Way’s rival is the proposed Equatorial Launch Australia launch facility in the Northern Territory. Both are planning their first launches for 2020.

Southern Launch chief executive Lloyd Damp told The Port Lincoln Times the report put solid figures on their plans.

"This report details how our operations can act as a catalyst for wider space investment into the economy," he said.

"There is a great deal of work to be done yet, but we're excited to be part of the development of a vibrant space industry in South Australia."

Damp said the agreement with Perigee Aerospace demonstrated the calibre of partners the facility could attract.

"We believe we can continue to attract significant international partners and to exceed the projections laid out in the SACES report," he said.

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