Ready to launch at Koonibba

TEST SITE: Koonibba Community Aboriginal Corporation chief executive officer Corey McLennan and Southern Launch chief executive officer Lloyd Damp during a recent meeting at Koonibba. Picture: Supplied
TEST SITE: Koonibba Community Aboriginal Corporation chief executive officer Corey McLennan and Southern Launch chief executive officer Lloyd Damp during a recent meeting at Koonibba. Picture: Supplied

After more than 18 months of discussions, the countdown is on for Koonibba to host its first rocket test launch in partnership with the Adelaide-based space company Southern Launch.

Southern Launch has been granted major project status to build Australia's first commercial rocket launch site at Whaler's Way, near Port Lincoln, with the 145-kilometre space over uninhabited national park at the Koonibba Test Range to act as a site to launch and recover rockets for research prior to launching into orbit.

Southern Launch chief executive officer Lloyd Damp made a recent visit to Koonibba and met with the community ahead of the first launch.

He said Koonibba provided an ideal location for a base of operations and said there would be benefits for the community.

"There will be jobs, as well as down the track providing STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) encouragement for kids in local communities within the wider region," Mr Damp said.

"Initially the job numbers and skill-set will be relatively low and we will be engaging the Koonibba community to supply us for safety, staffing roadblocks and other roles.

"Over time, once we learn from the first launch what is needed in the future, we will train the community."

Mr Damp said the Koonibba Community Aboriginal Corporation (KCAC) were at the forefront of obtaining required approvals and that there would be no environmental concerns relating to the launches, while access to the test site outside of testing times would not be restricted.

He said the first launch would consist of a small rocket about three metres tall which would not carry a large load, and over time the rockets would increase to seven metres in length.

"The area will only be shut down for a small time and will not be restricted to local people outside of those times," he said.

"There will be no damage to the land - most of the payloads come down on a parachute, then we will work with local co-management boards to ensure recovery efforts are done to not damage the local environment.

"There should not be any noise concerns for animals and local farmers were consulted - like them, we want to make sure the first launch is done very safely, and learn from it to modify operations based on what we learn."

Mr Damp thanked KCAC for their efforts and said they were "instrumental in setting up this venture", which would not be possible without them.

He hopes the first launch can take place by the middle of the year and said when a date was announced, local communities would be made aware and invited to watch from Koonibba.

Mr Damp said the final approvals had to be received from the Civil Aviation Safety Authority and Australian Space Agency.

"What we are planning is for people to come to Koonibba and go out to an area where they can watch the launch from."

Koonibba was chosen for the test site after what KCAC chief executive officer Corey McLennan said was a "lengthy consultation process".

He said the consultation process was designed to create awareness among chief stakeholders which included discussions with local farmers, local and state government, native title holders and the National Parks and Wildlife co-management boards.

"Our board of directors have professionally engaged most diligently within this process and have asked more questions than anybody can in relation to the safety of our people, our environment, our lands, and our future."

Mr McLennan said the Koonibba community was excited about the possibilities created by hosting the test launch site.

"All risk assessments have been eliminated and Koonibba is quite comfortable with the processes it has undertaken, we have been assured of safety to our land and adjoining lands which will be in the projectory zone," he said.

"Koonibba is excited to be playing a vital part in assisting the space industry in Australia.

"Our community has been rather excited as this is a new industry for us which will create opportunities through employment, training, and education."