House of Assembly: Wednesday, April 10, 2024


Koonibba Test Range

Ms HUTCHESSON (Waite) (14:28): My question is to the Minister for Defence and Space Industries. Can the minister update the house on the progress of the new launch facilities at the Koonibba Test Range?

The Hon. S.E. CLOSE (Port Adelaide—Deputy Premier, Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, Minister for Defence and Space Industries, Minister for Climate, Environment and Water) (14:28): I am very pleased to talk about the Koonibba Test Range. I was over at Ceduna just last week—a couple of days there—looking at various fabulous things occurring in that part of the country, but also went up to Koonibba to have a look at the permanent launching facility that's in the process of being built at present. There is an expectation that there will be shortly a suborbital test launch of the German manufacturer HyImpulse's SR75 rocket. That is still subject to final regulatory approval. It hasn't received the clearance from the Space Agency, at least last time I checked, but there is an expectation that, once that is provided, there will be a test launch of this large-scale rocket from Koonibba.

What is magnificent about this proposition is that we are seeing the oldest living culture being the host of a high-tech, very modern technological approach to not only gathering information about the world that we are living on but also, crucially, exploring ways in which some forms of manufacturing might be able to occur in space, because this facility will have the capacity to receive returned vehicles from space. What that means is that the kinds of crystals that can be grown only in zero gravity can be produced up there and brought back here, which is immensely important for the capacity of us to be able to detect information at a very, very fine level. Those crystals, as was demonstrated by the IPAS facility at the University of Adelaide, are extraordinary. There are other forms of technology also that appear to benefit from manufacture in space, including drug testing and drug creation and manufacturing.

This is a remarkable confluence, where the Koonibba community has been able to gain a grant to invest in this facility and will be able to lease out its use to Southern Launch long into the future, provided all the regulatory approvals are given.

There are some complexities around this, of course. There must be the appropriate environmental considerations and also those of Aboriginal people who, while not of the Koonibba community, are part of Aboriginal nations that have regarded that area as being very special to their culture and their law. While I was up there, I did urge the company to make sure that they were having all the conversations necessary with all of the Aboriginal groups to ensure that this is something that will continue to be supported across the wider Aboriginal community.

But what we are seeing here is an investment in space, which has long been part of South Australia's history but has really accelerated since the international space congress in 2017 was hosted here and then the Space Agency was placed in South Australia when it was established in the following year or two. What we are seeing is not only the growth in research, the growth in manufacturing, but now the capacity to be able to launch rockets from South Australia. We are starting to see the full lifecycle. To see that occurring on Aboriginal land to the financial benefit and the inspirational benefit for the students at Koonibba school is one of the truly inspiring parts of having a strong space industry in South Australia.