Gilmour granted Australia’s first orbital spaceport permit

Brandon How

Local rocket maker Gilmour Space Technologies has secured Australia’s first orbital launch facility licence for its Bowen Orbital Spaceport in North Queensland.

Science and Industry minister Ed Husic recently signed off on the licence, bringing Gilmour’s dream of launching an Australian rocket into orbit from a local space port closer to reality.

The port also received environmental approval from the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water in November 2023, but only for the launch of its Eris orbital launch vehicles.

The company, which successfully raised an additional $55 million last month, is planning the first launch of Eris in early April, but is still waiting on a launch permit from the Australian Space Agency. There are currently only 12 countries with the capability to undertake orbital launches.

Gilmour Space Technologies co-founders Adam and James at the Bowen Orbital Spaceport.

Located in the Abbot Point State Development Area, the Bowen Orbital Spaceport will offer commercial orbital launch services to low earth orbits, including support for satellite platforms and other dedicated/rideshare launches.

Gilmour Space co-founder and chief executive Adam Gilmour said the granting of the first orbital launch facility licence means “Australia now has its own ‘road’ to space”.

“The ability to launch our own satellites, on launch vehicles that we own and control, to key orbits in space from Australia, will be a significant capability for our global customers, as well as for our nation and allies,” Mr Gilmour said.

Gilmour Space co-founder and head of launch operations James Gilmour said the process had been two years in the making and included consultation with the Juru traditional owners and other stakeholders at the local, state and federal levels.

“We’ve seen these efforts lead to diversified business opportunities, jobs, and investment in Bowen and greater Whitsunday region; and it will be exciting to see ‘rocket tourism’ emerging to support the local economy,” Mr Gilmour said.

While Gilmour’s licence is the first orbital launch facility licence under the Space (Launches & Returns) Act 2018, Equatorial Launch Australia’s Arnhem Space Centre was the first spaceport to successfully complete a commercial sub-orbital space launch in 2022.

Southern Launch had also attempted this feat in 2021 at Whaler’s Way in South Australia, but technical difficulties meant its attempts did not make it off the ground.

The announcement comes on the same day that Sydney-based Space Machines Company successfully launched its satellite aboard a SpaceX’s Transporter-10 mission.

The Optimus-1 satellite will offer on-orbit satellite inspection, servicing and protection, helping keep other satellites in space for longer. It carried eight mini-modules of printed flexible solar cell technology developed by the CSIRO.

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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