Equatorial Launch Australia (ELA) wants to expand the NT’s Arnhem Space Centre.

The proposed expansion, which has been submitted to the NT Environment Protection Authority, envisions an increase in size from a single launch pad to 14 launch pads spanning 300 hectares. 

ELA aims to conduct rocket launches at a rate of approximately once a week during peak operations. 

The company aspires to establish the Arnhem Space Centre as a leading multi-user, commercial space launch site in the southern hemisphere, offering top-tier equatorial spaceport services, including vehicle testing, launches, and payload recovery for all types of space orbits.

The expansion project would also encompass the construction of essential infrastructure such as permanent mission support buildings, fuel storage, and pumping facilities. 

The proposed expansion would be situated on previously partially rehabilitated land, previously mined by the Gulkula Mining Company, which is a subsidiary of the Gumatj traditional owners of Arnhem Land.

Notably, South Korean firm Innospace is expected to initiate satellite launches from the Arnhem Space Centre starting in the first quarter of 2024. 

ELA expressed its intentions to collaborate with various US space companies and welcomed the recent agreement between the Australian and US governments to advance their space cooperation. 

ELA has also been negotiating contracts with several US launch providers, including the Phantom Space Corporation, which has links to the US Department of Defense.

Arnhem Land politician Yiŋiya Guyula has emphasised the importance of consulting with the region's 13 clan groups before proceeding with the expansion. 

He stressed the need for proper consultation with the traditional owners of the area and their engagement in traditional decision-making processes. 

Concerns have been raised about the disposal of rocket fragments on Mimal land in central Arnhem Land.

ELA and the Northern Land Council (NLC) have committed to conducting appropriate consultations, though specific details regarding the clans involved have not been explicitly stated. 

ELA indicated that it has been engaged in consultations with traditional owners through the Gumatj Corporation and the NLC concerning development and environmental matters.

If granted environmental approval, ELA anticipates completing the expansion by the end of 2024.