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Southern Launch to upgrade Koonibba Test Range in SA

Southern Launch will upgrade the Koonibba Test Range to become a permanent suborbital launch facility after its co-owner received a $4.5 million grant from the federal government.

The site, near Ceduna, South Australia, is also run by the Koonibba Community Aboriginal Corporation and allows companies to recover their rockets and payloads for further testing before subsequently launching them into orbit.

It’s separate from Southern Launches’ more traditional Whalers Way complex at the tip of the Eyre Peninsula, which specialises in orbital launches over the sea. 

The business’ chief executive officer, Lloyd Damp, said the funding would enable it to develop “world-class space facilities” that secure a high-tech future for the community.  


“The Koonibba Test Range brings a global industry to South Australia’s doorstep, and we’re excited about the opportunities this will bring to the community through employment, investment, and inspiration,” he said.

The range was developed in collaboration with the Koonibba Community Aboriginal Corporation and is Australia’s first licensed space launch facility.

Southern Launch said it hopes the work to upgrade it to a permanent status can begin later in 2023, with launches set to follow by the end of the year and into 2024. The plans, though, are still awaiting sign-off from the local council.

The Koonibba Community Aboriginal Corporation will also use a portion of the government funds to develop an observatory on Koonibba lands.


“This observatory will combine our rich stargazing history as First Nations people with the groundbreaking space exploration happening from our lands,” said the Corporation’s CEO, Corey McLennan.

“We hope the observatory will be a drawcard for every launch from the facility and must-see destination as people travel across Australia.”

The good news for Southern Launch comes after a series of setbacks at its Whalers Way facility, where a number of launches have been postponed or cancelled over the last two years.

It also had to deal with over 420,000 lightning strikes late last year, thwarting its attempt to launch rockets.

Despite the setbacks, Damp said he remained positive about the company’s mission to launch rockets from their facility soon.

“Even though we’ve had a few launch outcomes that weren’t what we had hoped for, we have still learned a lot.

“We still approach every single launch with the utmost respect and preparation.

“You have to hope for the best but plan for the worst.”


Adam Thorn

Adam Thorn

Adam is a journalist who has worked for more than 40 prestigious media brands in the UK and Australia. Since 2005, his varied career has included stints as a reporter, copy editor, feature writer and editor for publications as diverse as Fleet Street newspaper The Sunday Times, fashion bible Jones, media and marketing website Mumbrella as well as lifestyle magazines such as GQ, Woman’s Weekly, Men’s Health and Loaded. He joined Momentum Media in early 2020 and currently writes for Australian Aviation and World of Aviation.

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