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ELA unveils launch pad design for spaceport

Spaceport firm Equatorial Launch Australia has unveiled the final plans for its launch pads it believes are so versatile they can be used by multiple clients with minimal changes.

Other key features include technology to minimise damage from rocket plumes, mitigate environmental impacts, and handle launch weights of up to 450,000 kilograms.

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

The company 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 on Tuesday its Arnhem Space Centre Advanced Launch Pads (ASCALP) feature a “world first” and “state of the art” design.

The business’s chairman Michael Jones declared every element of ASCALP has been created to improve the safety and efficiency of the launch.

“It is also designed to make the operation of the Arnhem Space Centre much more efficient and cost-effective,” he said.

“The use of a proprietary Interface Plate element seamlessly mating a rocket to the Pivot Base of the pad allows each rocket to mate and be used with the standard launch pads anywhere on the ASC site.


“This has multiple advantages, including having all seven Space Launch Complexes at the ASC able to launch any rocket with very little notice for configuration change.”

Jones admitted that ELA fought hard to convince clients they should all blast off from pads that feature a similar design.

“When we first introduced the ASCALP design to our customers, we received some pushback – not every customer was at the same stage and had fully scoped their launch system,” he said.

“Others did and so we had to do some work to convince them of the benefits and the need for both increased safety and also efficiency. We think we have achieved a pretty good situation now.”

In August, ELA revealed that Innospace would become one of up to seven resident launchers.

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

However, the company is best known for successfully launching three NASA rockets last year – the first from a commercial port outside the US and Australia’s first commercial space launches.

More than 70 NASA staff travelled Down Under from the Wallops Flight Facility to work on the project.

The first mission saw the suborbital “sounding rocket” blast off from the launch pad carrying scientific instruments designed to observe the Alpha Centauri A & B constellations.

The three marked NASA’s first blast-offs from Australia since 1995, when launches were conducted from the RAAF Woomera Range Complex.

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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