12Nov2017

Traditional Owners Sign Space Base Lease

Arnhem

The Arnhem Space Centre could be operational within a year, and would be the only facility of its kind in the south-east Asia region.

Its been a long time coming. Australian’s first civilian space port is another step closer with Northern Territory traditional owners preparing to lease land to a company that wants to blast off small rockets.

The Northern Land Council has granted a 275-hectare lease in northeast Arnhem Land to the Gumatj clan for use as a commercial rocket launching facility. That’ll pave the way for Gumatj Aboriginal Corporation to sublease the site to Equatorial Launch Australia, a firm whose $236 million space base proposal is being considered by federal and NT infrastructure funds.

The 12-year lease has an option for a 28-year extension, and is expected to be finalised later this month. The Arnhem Space Centre could be operational within a year, and would be the only facility of its kind in the south-east Asia region.

“This is one step forward for indigenous people into a new world,” Gumatj chief executive Klaus Helms said on Friday. He hopes the local Yolngu people can claim a stake in the $3 billion-a-year national industry, stressing a transition to the high-tech growth sector is crucial as the region continues to suffer from the mining downturn.

“They’re trying to secure their future. Sooner or later the resources will run out and we need something with sustainability,” Mr Helms said. The agreement will include job opportunities for locals to ensure the Gumatj’s long-term aspirations for autonomy and independence.

Image result for arnhem land space base lease

Satellites could easily be launched from Australia in the near future

 “We’ll be doing security, construction, road building, supply delivery, power generation… otherwise we wouldn’t have even contemplated this,” Mr Helms said.The location on the Dhupuma Plateau on the Gulkala escarpment will be ideal for launching the 15-metre satellites due to its remoteness and proximity to the equator.The NLC engaged a rocket safety expert who found there’d be no threat to nearby populations from debris and no significant issues with noise or rocket motor exhaust.

“There were concerns about potential access into sacred areas, but they’ll be protected and all consultations were done in appropriate language,” chief executive Joe Morrison said. ELA chief executive Scott Wallis said the Canberra-based company would provide space access for commercial, research and government organisations.

He said the project offers a competitive alternative to large launch systems in terms of cost and infrastructure. “What we are doing has never been attempted commercially in Australia,” Mr Wallis told the NLC. “This is uncharted territory, it certainly can be done, and Australia will enter into new frontiers for its space industry.”

Because the lease is worth more than $1 million, it had to be approved by Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel scullion, who said it was an important development following the commonwealth’s recent announcement it would establish a national space agency.Source: Traditional owners sign space base lease

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