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UPDATE - SA Planning Minister announces the END of the Test Launch Campai

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UPDATE -Campaign closed by Hon. Nick Champion - SA planning minister - in January 2024


Despite the extensive assessment process required for the Whalers Way Orbital Launch Complex, and despite NO approvals being given to date for the Major Development, the so-called “test launch” campaign has been proceeding for over 2 years now.


Despite being given planning consent with the intent to gather data to support the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), the “test launch” campaign has continued well after the EIS was finalised. The EPEPA believes the test launching is to fulfill commercial agreements, NOT purely for collecting empirical data.


 Despite specifically being approved on a “temporary” basis only, with intent to be finished and all infrastructure and activity removed within 6 months, the “test launch” campaign has recently been extended for a third consecutive year. This means consecutive interruption of the critical breeding seasons for the protected bird species that inhabit the Whalers Way Site.

It is important to note that the Test Launch Campaign is for sub-orbital vehicles of a length of approx. 10m, launched from a small concrete pad. It barely reflects the 30+metre rockets, nor the 2sq kilometre launch complex and associated infrastructure of the Major Development. However, launching rockets of any kind poses significant environmental impacts which should be assessed prior to proceeding. 


Timeline of the “Test Launch Campaign”


22 April 2021 :
then Minister for Planning Hon. Vicki Chapman lists via the Government Gazette:

(a) Development for the purposes of establishing and carrying out three test rocket launches up until 31 December 2021.


Southern Launch subsequently make a development application:
“for building works that will be utilised to support a test launch campaign of up to three launch vehicles for data gathering purposes on subject land”



16 June 2021:
State Commission Assessment Panel (SCAP) meeting has 9 individual presentations made opposing the “temporary test launch facility,” including representatives from Birds SA, the Nature Conservation Society of SA, and the EPEPA.  Southern Launch representatives place significant emphasis on the “temporary 6 month nature” and the need to gather data to properly inform the Major Development proposal.


Shortly following the meeting, minutes were published that record the decision of the SCAP to give permission for a ‘temporary’ rocket launching facility and allow three ‘test’ rocket launches.


It was concluded by SCAP that the development was not seriously at variance with the Planning and Development Code, the Assessment Report emphasised that the land use was ‘temporary’ (‘the proposed activity is short-term in nature for research purposes only’) and for the purpose of informing the Environmental Impact Statement for the permanent facility (‘the specific and limited purpose of the development is to inform the Environmental Impact Statement)


The District Council of Lower Eyre Peninsula gave comment on the temporary development emphasising its purpose 'to gather empirical evidence relevant to the future assessment of the WWOLC' and that 'any planning consent granted by the Commission should reinforce the temporary nature of the proposal'

5th August  2021:

the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the permanent facility which is subject to the ‘major development’ process was then released, PRIOR to any test launch activity


10 September 2021:

The first ‘test’ launch was attempted of Taiwanese Company TiSpace’s Hapith 1 Rocket

The count down sequence was initiated once but aborted.


15th September 2021

Second launch attempt of Hapith 1 – aborted. Southern Launch state “technical fault”

Community members see smoke cloud rising from launch site.


16 September 2021:

Third launch attempt of Hapith 1causes a localized explosion and a fire, which required Country Fire Service attendance and burnt vegetation adjacent to the site.


----- End of initial approval time frame-----



20th January 2022

As per the Government Gazette then Minister for Planning Josh Teague amended the legislation to extend the temporary Test Launch Campaign for a further 12 months until 31 December 2022.


This is considered a “minor” variation and as such provides no option for public consultation.


November 2022

TiSpace (now rebranded as South Australian Company ATSpace) attempt to launch the same Hapith rocket (now rebranded as the Kestrel) from Whalers Way. An electrical storm strikes and damages the rocket. No launch is achieved.


15th December 2022

A fifth launch attempt – aborted due to a “Gas leak”


18th December 2022

A sixth launch attempt – aborted due to another gas leak.

All three of AT Space’s Kestrel rockets now requiring repairs.


------ End of extended approval time frame----


22 June 2023:

Via the Government Gazette, Labor Minister for Planning Nick Champion amends the legislation to further extend the temporary test launch campaign until November 14th 2023.

Again, it is listed as a minor variation, with no option for public consultation

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