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ELA hires GM to oversee spaceport growth

Equatorial Launch Australia has appointed a veteran aerospace executive to oversee the arrival of new rocket launch companies at its spaceport.

New general manager Craig Gibbons initially served as a helicopter pilot and captain for the Army, before taking senior roles at a number of aeromedical charities.

It significantly comes after ELA announced that a Korean launch company would become the first long-term tenant at its Arnhem Space Centre spaceport in the Northern Territory.

The business believes it can eventually accommodate up to seven rocket companies at its site, fuelled by strong demand for satellite launches combined with a lack of supply from traditional rocket companies overseas.


ELA said Gibbons would oversee the “phase two development” of the spaceport and support its “resident launcher” operating model, whereby several launch companies will be based for extended periods at the site and conduct multiple launches.

“As new launch vehicles come to market, the requirements on spaceports are changing,” said ELA’s chief executive officer, Michael Jones.

“The past decade has seen a seismic shift in the development of new commercial launch vehicles to meet the needs of the growing small satellite market in this ‘newspace’ era.

“As the industry matures and transitions from institutional launch to increasing commercial launch requirements, we see an opportunity for the Arnhem Space Centre to service this new generation of space companies and offer an alternative to congested overseas spaceports.


“Craig’s broad background of leading complicated and highly technical businesses and programs to deliver successful outcomes for customers positions him well to take on the project.”

Gibbons has more than 30 years of experience in roles providing leadership in operations and transformation.

“Following his defence force career, Craig made the successful transition into senior executive roles within commercial settings,” said ELA.

“His most recent role in Auckland, New Zealand, was as the CEO of Northern Rescue Helicopter Limited, where he oversaw the transition of two existing trusts into a new contemporary aeromedical organisation.

“Prior to that, he was general manager, CareFlight operations (Northern Territory based), where he led a multitude of commercial contracts and co-developed the strategy and led the winning bid for the delivery of the NT Interstate Dedicated Aeromedical Jets contract.

“Craig also brings to ELA experience in the IT, aerospace, and defence industries from roles held at Raytheon, NRMA, and Fuji Xerox as well Olympic security planning, integrations, and operations support for the Sydney and Athens Olympic Games.

“A graduate of the University of NSW where he obtained a master of business and technology, Craig is also a graduate of the Royal Military College, Duntroon.”

Space Connect reported in August how Korean launch company Innospace agreed a deal with ELA to blast off “several” rocket variants into low-Earth orbit from early 2025.

The pair will now work with the Australian Space Agency to obtain a launch permit – a process that is expected to take between six and 14 months to complete.

ELA earlier this year also agreed a separate deal to become the dedicated launch site of American space transportation and rocket manufacturing company Phantom Space Corporation.

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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