Expert wants to launch a space station in North Qld
THE leader of an Australian Space program has zeroed in on North Queensland to be the launch site of a $900million spaceport facility.
In an ambitious collaboration between CQUniversity, Australia Space Launch and Gilmour Space Launch Services, the project could see the consortium launching small rockets for atmospheric research within the next 12 months.
Australian Space Launch CEO Richard Allen's vision is to build a sovereign launch facility in the Bowen region, with the commercially-funded project eventually including a planetarium and hotel.
"We decided that the biggest gap in the Australian space industry was not having a commercial launch facility for all the different satellite and rocket companies that we have growing in Australia," Mr Allen said.
"The plan is to have small rockets that are sent up to do research about the atmosphere and test new software and navigational equipment. Then we'll move into bigger rockets and deeper orbits."
Early stages would see the facility launch satellites into space designed to assess the Earth's atmosphere, as well as monitor things such as crops, water supply and the Great Barrier Reef.
But it gets a whole better, according to Mr Allen. Within 17 years, the facility hopes to progress from light orbital capabilities to launching super heavy rockets into the atmosphere for mining and deep space exploration purposes.
While no official development application had been lodged, Mr Allen said talks with the State Government would begin soon.
"Bowen has good infrastructure such as ports, rail and a good highway, and those are all important when trying to get supplies such as fuels and rocket components shipped to you," Mr Allen said.
"You have a lot of different areas that have to supply it. Therefore there will be growth in transportation, fuel, manufacturing, education, construction, tourism, and hospitality. All these things will grow up around a launch facility of this size."
Whitsunday Mayor Andrew Willcox clung to a healthy level of scepticism when discussing the project, but said anything was possible.
"We welcome all investment opportunities in our region, but of course the devil is in the detail and we'll have to understand exactly what he's looking for," Cr Willcox said.
"We've got plenty of land available and space out the back of Collinsville. But we'd obviously want to sit down and have a conversation though."
Mr Allen said the aim was to eventually turn the facility into a mega spaceport consisting of different sections, encompassing manufacturing, research, education and tourism.
Also involved in the consortium is Professor Steve Moore of CQUniversity, who runs the Engineer and Research Centre, with the plan being CQU to be the research arm of the space centre.
The commercially funded project would be built over the span of a decade and would eventually include a planetarium and even a hotel. He forecasts the mega facility would cost about $900 million to complete.
"We're now 15 months into a focused effort to get this started," Mr Allen said.
"And we are in the process of narrowing down the Bowen area. And hopefully in the next six months we'll have the site picked out and begin the process."
Last year saw more than 800 satellite companies launched globally, including about 40 in Australia alone, according to Mr Allen. He said exciting things were on the horizon, and that 'literally' the sky was the limit.
"I think what we are going to see is a real boom in space exploration and space mining," he said.
"My focus is in the next 10-15 years is to be sending in big rockets and installing big equipment and I want to be ready and have a super heavy capability from the Bowen region."
Mr Willcox said the Whitsundays was open to new business opportunities.
"We'll have a crack at anything, nothing is out of the question but everything has to be done properly," he said.
"We're certainly looking for diversification in our area, and by the sounds of it, it doesn't get much more diverse than this."