Rockets launched from Koonibba
Mr TRELOAR (Flinders) (15:40): I rise today to talk about a very exciting event that happened in the electorate of Flinders just in the last week. Last Tuesday, a week ago today, along with a couple of hundred other people I headed to Koonibba on the Far West coast. Koonibba is a community situated about half way between Ceduna and Penong, west of Ceduna. It is around about 40 kilometres west of Ceduna.
Among the crowd was the Premier (Hon. Steven Marshall), the Minister for Trade and Investment and the Hon. David Ridgway and the Hon. Justin Hanson from the other place. As the local member, I of course was also in attendance, and the Mayor of Ceduna, Perry Will, was there. There were many, many locals—both Ceduna and west-of locals—and the students from the Koonibba Primary School came along as well.
The ambition on that particular day was to launch a rocket into near space. Near space is up to 100 kilometres above the Earth’s surface, and beyond that it comes under the jurisdiction of the Australian Space Agency. At this point in time Southern Launch had permission only from CASA, so they needed to stay within that 100-kilometre altitude.
The companies represented there were Southern Launch of course, and I will talk a little bit more about them in a moment, and DEWC provided some of the machinery as well. Unfortunately, there was a misfire on the Tuesday and the much-anticipated launch did not take place. However, not to be daunted, the crew reassembled last Saturday. It was a much smaller crowd but still a good crowd came along.
Unfortunately, I was not able to be there on Saturday, but they had two successful launches into near space. They fired north and were aiming to retrieve the rockets. I have not heard that they have been able to do that yet, although they had pinpointed where they fell back to Earth. The plan is for Koonibba to be Australia’s largest rocket-testing facility with the opportunity to recover the payload.
However, the bigger plan from Southern Launch is to regularly launch rockets, small rockets—these are not Saturn Vs; they are relatively small rockets—with communication satellites with a weight of around 25 kilograms from a site down at the very southern tip of Eyre Peninsula near Cape Carnot; certainly, I think people in this place would be more familiar with Whalers Way.
The beauty of this site is, of course, its proximity to Port Lincoln, a large regional centre which offers facilities and infrastructure to support the rocket launches and to support the people and the jobs that might come along with it. It has good year-round whether. That is a big selling point from Southern Launch. I do not know that it is always fantastic, but it is certainly a better proposition than some of the other options that are being put forward from around the world.
The real beauty of this site is that they can launch south over the Great Southern Ocean to put a small satellite into a polar orbiting trajectory and monitor the lift-off from Kangaroo Island. And, of course, the rocket shoots out over relatively calm waters with little sea traffic or air traffic, which gives unhindered southward trajectories. The real future in this is, of course, communication satellites, and satellites are the source of much of the data consumed on a daily basis and certainly is the way of the future.
Previously, it was all about big satellites costing half a billion dollars orbiting around the equator in geostationary Earth orbit. However, companies from around the world—and, remember, this is a commercial enterprise, a commercial venture—are now planning and launching constellations of small satellites orbiting at less than 400 kilometres from the Earth’s surface in low Earth orbit, which are costing less than half a million dollars each. I wish Lloyd Damp and the team at Southern Launch every success in the future.