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Australia launches into the space age.

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M191/2001 24 June 2001


The Minister for Industry, Science and Resources, Senator Nick Minchin, and Minister for Regional Services, Territories and Local Government, Senator Ian Macdonald, announced today that the Government has agreed to provide up to $100 million to pave the way for the Asia Pacific Space Centre (APSC) to establish a spaceport on Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean.

"The $800 million project will be the first fully commercial land based space launch facility in the world," Senator Minchin said.

"It will establish Australia as a significant player in the satellite launch industry that is currently dominated by the United States, Russia, the European Union and China."

PriceWaterhouseCoopers' estimate that global demand for satellite launches will be worth up to $40 billion over the current decade, and Australia can expect to capture between 10 and 20 per cent of that market. This could see Australian launch operations contributing up to $2.5 billion to the Balance of Payments in their first ten years of operation.

Senator Macdonald said the APSC project will also underpin the economic future of Christmas Island, currently dependent on the existing phosphate mine with its limited life span. The project will generate up to 400 jobs in the construction phase and up to 550 jobs when fully operational..

"The Christmas Island community has an optimistic future following today's announcement," Senator Macdonald said.

Senator Minchin said the APSC project will lead Australia into the highly prized geostationary launch segment of the market, while offering capabilities in the low earth orbit segment as well. It will also open opportunities for the broader Australian space sector, especially in the design, manufacture, testing and flight preparation of satellites, and in such launch related technologies as space communications.

APSC will be targeting the growing Asian satellite market and is expected to commence operations from late 2003. The Aurora launch vehicle for the project will be supplied by APSC's Russian partners and is

based on the highly successful and reliable Soyuz family of rockets.

The Government will be providing $100 million to support the project through the Strategic Investment Incentives programme. This includes provision of common use infrastructure on Christmas Island in the form of an upgrade to the airport and a new port and road and a assistance with spaceport infrastructure such as ground station facilities for telemetry and tracking.

APSC has committed a minimum of $15 million out of its operational receipts over the first 5 years of launch operations towards the establishment of a Space Research Centre. The Centre would be a partnership between APSC and Australian universities to support and sponsor research, teaching, and technical and managerial capacities in the Australian space industry.

The flow-on benefits to Australia's fledgling space industry will create high tech jobs in electrical, mechanical and aerospace engineering, space communications, satellite technology, and project management.

The Allen Consulting Group estimates that the project will bring a net gain to Australia of $1.3 billion in net present value.

Senator Macdonald said Christmas Island's proximity to the equator provides a number of advantages in the launch market including the capacity to launch larger payloads than would be the case for launch sites further from the equator.

The Christmas Island spaceport will be licensed under the Space Activities Act 1998 and will need to satisfy the stringent launch safety regulations being established under the Act.

Russian launch technology will be protected in Australia under a Technology Safeguards Agreement currently being negotiated between the Australian and Russian governments, consistent with the commitments of both countries under the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR). The Agreement will strictly circumscribe the control and use of the launch technologies. The MTCR is an international arrangement set up to prevent the proliferation of ballistic missiles and associated technology.

Mr Kwon, APSC's Managing Director said "I believe the decision by the Government to provide support for APSC's project reflects recognition within Government of the enormous benefits that Australia can accrue from the project. These benefits will come not only from APSC's launch services project, but from the opportunities it will bring for APSC and Australia to penetrate the enormous global satellite communications market. The project will become part of the infrastructure of the international telecommunications industry and will play an important role in expanding the international telecommunications opportunities for the world's people."

He said "APSC will offer reliable space launch services that are highly competitive in price, commercial terms and conditions, and technical capability."

Media contact: Jennifer Eddy, Senator Minchin's office 02 6277 7580   David Moore, Senator Macdonald's office 02 6277 7060 / 0417 774 724