Gunner confident NT will win Australian space race
CHIEF Minister Michael Gunner says he is confident Arnhem Space Centre will become Australia's first launch facility, drawing international attention on the Northern Territory.
Mr Gunner told a Space Industry forum in Darwin this week that Equatorial Launch Australia is a great example of just what's possible in the Territory.
The Arnhem Space Centre is one of several major projects predicted to benefit from the Territory Government's decision on Tuesday to scrap the NT Infrastructure Development Fund and immediately divert half of the $185 million in the fund to help kick-start shovel-ready "economic transformation projects".
The Gunner Government has a number of major projects on its books which could benefit from some of the funds.
These include the equatorial space launch project; the East Arm shiplift facility; a privately operated waterpark; the Kakadu masterplan; a $100 million Darwin lithium-ion battery gigafactory; and expansion of the Humpty Doo barra farm.
"When people first started talking about launching rockets out of northeast Arnhem Land there were a few quizzical glances (and headlines), to say the least," Mr Gunner said.
"But rockets out of northeast Arnhem Land made sense.
"It's close to the equator, making it easier to achieve escape velocity.
"It's tectonically stable. It's close to the sea. And there aren't too many people and homes to get in the way.
"Now it's happening."
Mr Gunner said he wants the Northern Territory to be front and centre of the space revolution in Australia.
"Last year I signed an agreement with South Australia and the ACT to put our unique strengths together to help develop the industry," he said.
"The space industry today in this country is worth a few billion. By 2030, it could be worth $12 billion and employ 20,000 people.
"We've already got the first launch base - it's a pretty good start.
"We've got the location. We've got the room on the ground and in the sky. We have stable Government.
"We have the support industry. Territory industry has transformed over the last two decades, largely through the oil and gas.
"And because of our strategic location … our emerging status on the world stage … we have unprecedented investment coming in, which can be leveraged by industry - space being one of many.
"We should be thinking big picture - like launch facilities - but we should also be thinking in terms of the everyday.
"We've been conditioned to think of the space industry as about trips to the moon and astronauts in white suits and bubble helmets.
"But there are opportunities much closer to home.
"For example, we manage legacy mines through satellite and drone technology.
"We can manage bushfires through satellites - and Territory company Maitec have a range of products doing just that.
"Even the cattle industry uses NASA technology. The Precision Pastoral Management System, developed in Alice Springs, allows for remote monitoring of cattle and pastures using satellites."
Mr Gunner said if his government can successfully grow the space industry in the Territory it will begin to open up these and other opportunities barely dreamt of a decade or two ago.
"The space industry and other Territory industries have the opportunity to get talking and partner up - in a sense, to piggy back on each other's technology, data and infrastructure for mutual and community benefit," he said.
"Nothing sits in isolation.
"Consider the partnership opportunities around technology, data, security and infrastructure, among other things when it comes to oil and gas.
"We're positioning the NT to be a world-class oil and gas hub by 2030, about the same time the space industry in Australia could be worth $12 billion. Consider the partnership opportunities coming online with Defence's plan to spend $20 billion in the Territory over the next two decades.
"The Territory is, incorrectly, seen as Australia's final frontier. We're well past this.
"My vision is that the Territory be known in Australia and worldwide as this nation's literal and metaphorical launch pad into humanity's final frontier."