The Guardian • Issue #2051

Military uses for Arnhem Space Centre

Astronaut working outside of craft.

Photo: – Creative Commons (CC0 – Public domain)

Last year the Guardian reported on the development of the Arnhem Space Centre (ASC) in north-east Arnhem Land in the remote Northern Territory. We warned then that the centre would eventually be used for space warfare purposes.

And now, only a few months later, our warning is already coming true.

Equatorial Launch Australia (ELA), which runs the ASC, has signed an agreement with US rocket company Phantom Space Corporation to collaborate on missions.

The ABC has reported that Phantom, which has links to the US Department of Defense, has stated it plans to fire orbital rockets from the space centre by 2025.

The two companies said they are working towards a “space mission of national significance for Australia and the Asia Pacific region.” ELA chief executive Michael Jones said the mission plan was “classified and confidential.”

“The facilities, technologies and capabilities of ELA and the ASC are also able to allow it to be used as a state-of-the-art test and development range for both commercial and defence missiles and rockets,” Jones said.

Mark Lester, Phantom’s chief operating officer, said that “since the US and Australia remain close allies, it is possible we will conduct defence missions” at the Arnhem Space Centre in the future.

He added that the space centre could one day be used as a missile-testing and development range.

Local indigenous communities, who initially welcomed the space centre’s potential for employment and development, are now expressing concerns about the Space Centre being used by the military.

“It is very concerning that these things are being talked about by ELA and others without the Yolngu clans connected to the Gove Peninsula being at the forefront of that conversation,” indigenous leader Yingiya Guyula said.

In December 2022 US Space Force Lieutenant-General Nina Armagno described Australia’s “prime geography” as essential for future space operations.

Meanwhile Lockheed Martin is building Australia’s first sovereign defence satellite communication system known as Joint Project 9102.

Expected to cost $4 billion, the new system will include new communications satellites, multiple ground stations across Australia, a communications management system and two new operations centres.

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