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Southern Launch wins commercial space launch approval

Southern Launch and the Koonibba Community Aboriginal Corporation will begin work on Australia’s first permanent commercial sub-orbital space launch facility after planning consent was granted for the Koonibba Test Range in country South Australia.

“The development of permanent, world-class facilities at the Koonibba Test Range will put Australia on the map as a space-faring nation,” said Southern Launch CEO Lloyd Damp. “What we have to offer at Koonibba is unique, highly sought after and complements our orbital facility at Whalers Way. We have a long list of global customers ready to use the range and we’re excited about the incredible opportunities this presents for Koonibba and South Australia.”

The Koonibba Test Range is one of the largest commercial rocket testing facilities in the world. Jointly operated by the Koonibba Community Aboriginal Corporation and Southern Launch, the range is used to launch sub-orbital missions to the edge of space to conduct experiments and validate space technology. The range can also be used to accept re-entry of space technology from orbit.

The development of permanent facilities at the Koonibba Test Range will be an iterative process with the first stage focussed on a launch pad and storage facilities.

Southern Launch has a number of missions set to launch from the range including the ReFEx mission in 2024 with the German Space Agency (DLR). The company also recently signed an MoU with UK based Space Forge to use the Koonibba Test Range as a re-entry point for their spacecraft. A number of other missions are also contracted to launch from the Koonibba Test Range later in 2023.

“Planning consent for the Koonibba Test Range is an important and major milestone for Southern Launch,” said Enrico Palermo, Head of the Australian Space Agency which is based in. nearby Adelaide. “Having a test range like this on our doorstep will make it easier for our local innovators to test and validate their technology, as well as providing a safe returns destination for international space missions. The Agency’s Office of the Space Regulator continues to work with Southern Launch on their application for launch licencing of the Koonibba Test Range.”

“Coupled with our strong space heritage, this unique Australian-first facility reaffirms the state’s position as a centre-of-gravity for space activity and supports the growth of an enduring sovereign capability,” said Susan Close, Deputy Premier of South Australia and Minister for Defence and Space Industries.

The Koonibba Community Aboriginal Corporation will also begin planning for its space observatory. Corporation Chief Executive Corey McLennan says, “This observatory will combine our rich stargazing history as First Nations people with the ground-breaking space exploration happening from our lands. We hope the observatory will be a drawcard for every launch from the facility and must-see destination as people travel across Australia.”

For Southern Launch the development of permanent facilities helps propel Australia to the forefront of the global space industry, added Lloyd Damp: “Traditionally Australia has relied on other countries to help us launch our incredible technology to space. The Koonibba Test Range will provide the opportunity for local companies and universities to test and validate their technology to the edge of space without having to go overseas.”

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