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Ambitious spaceport bid has sights set on Weipa

A spaceport on the outskirts of Weipa is still a major possibility as an Australian-based company eyes the Cape York location.

Space Centre design
Space Centre Australia would comprise four launch pads for rockets designed to carry small satellites into space. Image: Palm Branch Group

Discussions have already begun between the Palm Branch Group’s Spaze Oz arm and key stakeholders in Weipa and Napranum.

The site would be located near the RAAF Scherger base, about 43km from Weipa.

However, the project is a long way off, with environmental approvals required, as well as planning permits and an agreement with Traditional Owners.

And then there’s the funding.

Palm Branch Group director James Palmer told Cape York Weekly the company had yet to lock in funding for the facility, to be called Space Centre Australia.

“There’s definitely interest in the private sector and we may be looking at some government funds through NAIF (Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund),” Mr Palmer said last week.

“There are other things we need to get sorted first, such as approvals and agreements with Traditional Owners.”

Mr Palmer made a presentation to Member for Leichhardt Warren Entsch several weeks ago, explaining his vision for the project.

The MP said he was impressed with the concept and hoped a spaceport would take off in Cape York.

“It’s been talked about for a long time, although it’s never been discussed properly or been in the right place,” Mr Entsch told Cape York Weekly.

“The location out of Weipa just makes sense because it’s close to the airport, to the deep water port, and there is a lot of land around that is suitable.

“This won’t be a spaceport like you see on TV in America.

“It’s small rockets that are launching very small satellites.”

Space Centre design
An artist impression of the Space Centre Australia base, to be built on the outskirts of Weipa (pending approval). Image: Palm Branch Group

In a statement, Mr Palmer said the Space Centre Australia facility would be cutting-edge and give Australia the advantage in the race to win launches.

“Advanced design work has commenced on the first large scale multi-use spaceport designed to be a collaboration centre for the advancement of the Australian and international space industry sectors.

“Space Centre Australia infrastructure will be designed to accommodate small to large vertical launch vehicle systems and comprise these facilities:

  • Launch vehicle development and handling centre;
  • Four launch staging pads;
  • Integrated launch control centre;
  • Integrated mission control centre;
  • Fuel handling facilities;
  • Datacentre facilities;
  • Broadband satellite communications facility;
  • Accommodation facilities;
  • Administration facilities;
  • Security operations centre.

Implementation of the Space Centre Australia facility will be delivered in three phases, Mr Palmer said.

“Phase 1 is scheduled to commence preliminary construction in early 2022 pending completion of land, development, and environmental approvals,” the optimistic director said.

“Working closely with the traditional owners, state and local government, the construction activities will create approximately 100-200 employment opportunities.

“When complete, Space Centre Australia is estimated to provide 300 full-time permanent roles.

“Investment in this project is supported through a consortium of financial sources.”

Mr Palmer said representatives from Palm Branch Group and Space Centre Australia Pty would be conducting community consultation in Weipa and Napranum in August.

Cape York Weekly 13 July 2021

This article appeared in Cape York Weekly, 13 July 2021.


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