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Australia's first commercial launch facility finds home

Australia's first commercial launch facility finds home

Louis Dillon

After an 18-month search, Southern Launch has found a home for Australia’s first commercial launch facility.

Whalers Way on the Eyre Peninsula in South Australia has been chosen for the 1,190-hectare site, about 300 kilometres north-west of Adelaide and 500 kilometres south of Woomera.

The complex will be called Whalers Way Orbital Launch Complex and will begin construction early in 2019, according to Southern Launch chief executive Lloyd Damp.

“We looked at sites from Western Australia to Victoria that were suitable for a southern launch and provided the right safety for people and the environment, and South Australia met all the criteria,” said Damp.

“Besides offering the ability to launch rockets into a polar or sun-synchronous orbit, we also needed to have access to major infrastructure like ports and airports.”

Damp said the start-up company was in talks with local and overseas manufacturers to begin designing and developing infrastructure with an aim of making the site operational by the end of 2019.

“Both here and overseas I realised a lot of new companies were developing small rockets, but there weren’t many places to launch these rockets from and Australia has this really unique geography,” Damp said.

Southern Launch aims to deliver payloads between 50 and 400 kilograms.

“There has been a huge shift in the space ecosystem from the old-space equatorial orbits for large telecoms and TV satellites to the NewSpace polar orbits for IoT,” Damp said.

“Satellites in a north-south orbit mean you need a smaller number of cheap satellites to observe the entire globe.”

Southern Launch said they took the following aspects into account when selecting the site:

  • Environmental impact;
  • Infrastructure;
  • Available services; and
  • Local population.

The company is working with the South Australian government, the Australian Space Agency and other regulators to properly organise the legal requirements needed to launch from the site.

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