The Arnhem Land Aboriginal Land Trust has leased 275 hectares from north-east Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory to be used as a commercial rocket launching facility. The land has been leased to Gumatj Corporation who plan to sublease part of it to Equatorial Launch Australia Pty Ltd. Once the sublease is finalised, the site will be developed into a facility called the Arnhem Space Centre.
The Arnhem Space Centre will be built on the Dhupuma Plateau on the Gulkala escarpment in north east Arnhem Land. The site is particularly useful for rocket launches as the closer launches get to the equator, the more these launches can make use of the Earth’s rotation by launching east.
Equatorial Launch Australia has been contracted by NASA to prepare a feasibility study on launching from the site. Sounding rockets are used to gather scientific data for private and commercial entities.
Prior to approving the lease, the National Land Council consulted with the Gumatj clan and other affected groups.
Speaking with the ABC, Gumatj Corporation CEO said, “The excitement amongst the [traditional owners] is evident, they see this as a stepping stone to get away from mining and to do something for themselves that’s never been done in northern Australia,” he said.
“For us, it’s more of an employment opportunity, and we’re always looking for those long-term opportunities, not just things for the short term.”