The Northern Territory government is backing a $236 million Australian space station in Arnhem Land, and wants to unlock federal funds to develop it.
Chief Minister Michael Gunner says the government is currently in talks with the private sector and Aboriginal traditional owners about leasing land near Nhulunbuy for a satellite launch site.
Equatorial Launch Australia’s space base proposal is being assessed by both the taxpayer-funded $5 billion Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility and the NT Industry Development Fund.
Mr Gunner said the government is negotiating with Galarrwuy Yunupingu’s Gumatj clan, which owns the land on Gove Peninsula.
“It’s still very much at the early days of it but we’re having good conversations,” he said.
ELA is seeking an estimated $10.6 million for stage one of the project and $225 million for the following two phases.
On Monday Treasurer Nicole Manison said the “whole purpose” of the Territory’s infrastructure development fund is to attract private investment, and the space station is one of 20 projects under consideration.
The federal government this month announced a review into a long-term plan to grow Australia’s space industry with a report to be completed by March 2018.
Northern Australia is a commercially attractive launch pad location as its proximity to the equator means rockets take off faster and more cheaply. The remote location also minimises risks to people and property.