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Whalers Way was the best site for rockets, says Southern Launch CEO

Whalers Way was the “optimal” location for Southern Launch’s mission to deliver the first permanent commercial launch facility, CEO Lloyd Damp told the Space Connect podcast.

Whalers Way was the best site for rockets, says Southern Launch CEO
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His comments come as the chosen location has suffered scrutiny from conservationists and locals over fears the launches will impact local wildlife, especially the bird species.

But Lloyd persisted the safety of the environment and locals were “key” in deciding a location, and Whalers Way at the tip of the Eyre Peninsula in South Australia was the best choice.

He said the company had a list of 16 locations, from Western Australia to Victoria, but Whalers Way was chosen for ticking the most boxes in the company’s criteria.

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“It is a large site, there is limited population in the local area, it is freehold land, and the environment is pretty well understood,” he said.  

While hundreds of people were in support of the location prior to the test launches in September, 88 of the submissions to the State Commission Assessment Panel (SCAP) from the public were opposed.

The submissions were from the Conservation Council of SA, Zoos SA, the National Trust, Birds SA and Nature Conservation Society SA.

They warned the launch pad is home to various federal-listed threatened bird species, including the white-bellied sea eagle, eastern osprey, Eyre Peninsula southern emu-wren and the white-fronted whipbird.

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The other groups submitted similar concerns, however, the locals in support of the proposal believed this would boost economy and jobs within South Australia.

Protestors against the launched also showed up to the first test, but a spokesperson from the company ensured the wildlife and sea life had been monitored closely with drone security before lift-off, and it was clear.

He said the company has been able to improve the local ecology, such as cleaning out rubbish – such as an old film set dumped on the site – reintroducing mammals that were being chased out of the area from tourists and eradicating feral animals.

“It's not up to governments to protect the local environment,” Lloyd said. “It's actually up to the companies and the individuals that live in the area and operate from the site to do that work.

“We keep saying to everybody, join us and contribute into the work that we're doing financially … and actually contribute into the ecology … if you have something constructive to say, we keep inviting people, [but] no one's yet to stand up and actually work with us,” Lloyd said.

In response to a question about why Southern Launch did not choose a location in the outback, Lloyd said being close to water was a key factor in the decision.

“You want to be near the coast … very close to the coast,” he said.

“Should something go wrong, you want it to fall into the ocean because there's no one who really lives out on the ocean compared to if you were flying over someone's house.

“So, the idea of being close to the ocean means you can very quickly ensure that you're not going to land on someone's house.”

He said it was also important to choose an accessible location for people to get to, especially as the company expects its yearly launches to match Cape Canaveral in the United States.

“There were other sites, but they weren't as good as well as Whalers Way, specifically for the market that we are going after, which is the high-inclination orbit,” Lloyd said.

The peak awards program for the space industry is back, recognising the dedicated professionals and businesses within Australia’s space sector. Gain recognition for your contribution to advancing our nation’s space capabilities or recognise a peer for theirs. Click here to get your nominations in today.

Isabella Richards

Isabella Richards

Bella Richards is a journalist who has written for several local newspapers, her university newspaper and a tech magazine, and completed her Bachelor of Communications (Journalism) at the University of Technology Sydney in 2020. She joined Momentum Media in 2021, and has since written breaking news stories across Space Connect, Australian Aviation and World of Aviation.

You can email Bella on: [email protected]

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