7 mins read 13 Aug 2021

Southern Launch release Whalers Way Environmental Impact Statement

Southern Launch has taken the next step towards the development of the Whalers Way launch site near Port Lincoln, South Australia, by releasing their environmental impact statement for consultation. 

The site at Whalers Way, on the tip of the Southern Eyre Peninsula approximately 32 km from Port Lincoln. Credit: Southern Launch

As part of the comprehensive approvals process to develop the Whalers Way site into a world-class launch facility, Southern Launch have completed a comprehensive environmental impact statement (EIS) of the site near Port Lincoln, SA which is situated upon the lands of the Nauo people.  

The assessment covers all aspects of the environmental impact of the site from construction noise to launch emissions and takes into account the current flora and fauna at the site. Earlier this year the company received approval for a test launch site and a licence which will allow them to complete three launches by the end of the year

“This the culmination of many, many years of work for the company and it's a major step towards us realizing a space industry, not only here in Australia but down in South Australia and in regional areas as well,” said Southern Launch CEO, Lloyd Damp.

Southern Launch is hoping that along with their development there will be the opportunity to improve the site and increase the levels of native flora and fauna. The in-depth study not only noted the number of indigenous flora and fauna but also noted the number of feral animals including cats and rabbits. 

Southern Launch hopes that as part of their remediation plans they will reduce the number of feral animals and increase the biodiversity of the site. It was also noted that the site has some significant areas of negative human impact, which it is hoped with the assistance of the local government’s environmental departments, will be cleaned up as part of the development. 

The Whalers Way Launch Facility

An artist's impression of what one of the launch sites could look like once approval has been granted. Credit: Southern Launch

“Specifically, that location [suits] the market that Southern launch is going after. [If you are] on the northern coast of Australia and you launch north, you immediately overflying other nations and other populated areas. So, [to achieve the orbits we are looking for] it immediately says you need to be launching South or launching from the South Coastline,” said Damp about the Whalers Way site.  

The site also holds significant potential for the area, with Port Lincoln less than an hours drive from the site. There is also an opportunity to provide a much-needed boost to the area, not only from a number of high tech jobs but also the supporting infrastructure required and the potential to bring tourism to the area. For example, Florida’s Space Coast brings significant tourism to the local area, the launch site at Whalers Way could potentially become the Australian equivalent.  

“We are already working with quite a lot of the tourism operators who work out of Whalers Way already, to start thinking, how can we make an experience for all of us? 

“So, if you think a family turns up to watch a rocket launch, rocket launches are inherently variable on the day that they actually go off, they don't just come and spend one day in Port Lincoln, they spend 3.” 

“On the days that aren't launching, they go and look at the local wineries or see a nature park, or just sample the local [wares],” added Damp.

Environmental Impact Statement

The Southern Emu Wren is under threat from bushfires and feral cats. The Southern Emu Wren was recorded on the site at Whalers Way - Credit: South Australian Department for Environment and Water

The detailed document provides details around the development of the Whalers Way site, including some very interesting insights around the potential location plan and structures. The proposal also includes two launch sites, a range control facility, and a site for associated infrastructure. It will include structures such as flame trenches, launchpad lightning rods, blast walls and flare stacks, all standard additions to a launch site. 

“This is all very serious, we have six weeks of exhibition, as it is called, at which point feedback that's provided to the state government through the plan SA website is then provided to Southern launch. Southern Launch then has to prepare a response document to address the concerns or the issues raised by the people,” said Damp. 

It is not just the local flora and fauna that have been considered in this report, the traditional custodians of the area, the Nauo people have been part of the discussions around the development of the area, with a number of areas and artefacts of cultural heritage significance found in the area. 

“We work very closely with the Nauo people who have title over that part of the Eyre peninsula. We've had them on-site quite a few times, and they've done a number of extensive surveys for us. They've worked with anthropologists and that's in our EIS [Environmental Impact Statement] to identify any particular areas of cultural significance. We have a very good relationship with them,” said Damp.

There is some local opposition to the project which revolves around concerns about damage to the natural environment, noise and exclusion zones as well as the risk of bush fire in the area. This consultation period will give them the opportunity to have their concerns addressed. 

"We want people to come to any of the information sessions, ask questions to clarify any points that might not be overly clear to them. For them to understand what it is we're proposing is not only for the local region but the nation.” 

“This is a nation defining capability, and ultimately, we want their support, but we want their support on the basis that they understand what it will mean for their generation and the generations to come. Knowing that Australia is once again a space-faring nation and that we are developing the very pinnacle of technology and we're doing it in a way that protects and develops the local ecology in the area,” added Damp. 

A Growing Company

The team at Southern Launch (Middle - Southern Launch CEO, Lloyd Damp). Credit: Southern Launch

The South Australian company is growing its team to help deliver on its desire to deliver launch services from the Whalers Way location. The company is growing out of their Adelaide headquarters and are on the lookout for a number of positions to assist them with their next stage.  

"In 2019 we hired our first permanent employee. We are now at 17,” said Damp.

“We need a regulation and compliance officer, so we're looking for a lawyer as a lot of what we do is launch permit applications and developing documentation for all of our procedures so we have a team of lawyers internal to the company who do that.”

“We are also looking for someone to look after corporate services in the company, so all of our finances as well as external compliance with the Companies Act. We also need someone to run our engineering design team and a whole bunch of engineers to help grow our engineering team more. We've also got to start bulking out our back of house activity so HR and administration,” confirmed Damp.

It is hoped that their development will lead to other companies setting up in the local area, delivering an economic boom for the region. 

“We are going to be looking for a lot of people who understand safety and safe operations. We see a lot of correlation between jobs such as skippers on fishing vessels, managing safety, making critical decisions.” 

“Those are the kinds of people who operate in a launching environment, so we see a lot of potential transfer of skills. There is also a lot of engineering, a lot of fabrication, and ultimately what we're aiming to do is to attract rocket assembly or manufacturers to the Port Lincoln local area and then all of a sudden you've got a brand-new industry.” 

“All of a sudden you're looking at 400 high tech jobs in a city of 16,000, that would just create a huge flow on effect to all the suppliers and local distributors and manufacturers who would set up a local presence,” he concluded.