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SA company awarded first-ever space launch facility licence

A DART rocket carrying a Royal Australian Air Force payload was launched from Koonibba Rocket Range in South Australia in September 2020; The Koonibba launch site is now the first privately-owned licensed launch site in Australia Photo taken by : Sean Jorgensen-Day, DEWC Systems Engineer.

The Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources (DISER) has awarded the first ever launch facility licence to South Australian company Southern Launch. The licence for the company’s Koonibba Test Range in regional South Australia will open the door for the site to become a launch pad for future commercial launches of suborbital rockets.

The site recently hosted two successful launches in the same 24-hour period.

Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Karen Andrews said ensuring a regulatory framework that balances safety and entrepreneurism is crucial to growing the Australian space sector.

“This is a major milestone for the Australian space sector and will unlock opportunities for our local space businesses to help them grow and create local jobs,” she said. “Australia’s geographical location and wide-open spaces makes it optimal for various launch activities and suborbital rocket launches provide an important capability to space-qualify Australian hardware and technology.”

Head of the Australian Space Agency Enrico Palermo said space launch from Australia is one of several areas of competitive advantage where the civil space industry can develop local capability.

“We are committed to providing a supportive environment for industry growth in Australia, including for the innovative space start-up community, while ensuring the safety of space activities,” Mr Palermo said.

“Our forthcoming technical roadmap on access to space will further explore launch activities by providing a vision, ambition and aspirational capability targets to grow a globally-respected and thriving industry in Australia.”

Chief Executive Officer of Southern Launch Lloyd Damp said, “Southern Launch is absolutely thrilled to be the first company to hold an Australian launch facility licence, allowing the facility to be used for future space launches out across the Australian desert.”

Access to space is one of seven National Civil Space Priority Areas in the Australian Civil Space Strategy. Since 2018 the Australian government has invested more than $700 million in the civil space sector as part of its plan to grow the sector to $12 billion and add another 20,000 jobs by 2030.

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