In 2018 Regional Development Australia Eyre Peninsula (RDAEP) engaged with Southern Launch to introduce the Koonibba Community Aboriginal Corporation (KCAC) for the suitability of a section of the community-owned land to be used to develop the site for the launching of suborbital test rockets. Southern Launch developed a proposal that included leasing a portion of land, providing support for educational scholarships, employment of Aboriginal people, use of community infrastructure for meetings, establishing a viewing section for launches, and undertaking presentations at education organisations on Eyre Peninsula.

Moving forward to 2024, Koonibba is the first registered sub-orbital test rocket site in Australia. Operational structure now includes the Koonibba community as a venture partner with Southern Launch. A permanent launch facility is being built near the Foggo Road area which will also include an observatory and will be included in tourist activities.

RDAEP has continued to be involved with the project with roles that include: facilitating connection to adjoining landowners, natural resource management, Native Title groups, and meetings with the general community. Issues such as the environment, employment, education, safety, fire, roads, and economic development were discussed with the Aboriginal community and acted upon with excellent outcomes.

With each launch, approximately 25 Aboriginal community members are employed for 10 days in roles including security, driving (water cart, retrieval units, coaches, graders), catering, and traffic management.

The collaboration between Southern Launch and Koonibba has generated additional outcomes including a new mobile phone tower for improved phone coverage, an upgraded and safer intersection into Koonibba from Eyre Highway, and an upgrade of Foggo Road that is also used by local farmers to transport machinery and grain.

Another advantageous benefit to the Eyre Peninsula region is the increase in tourism activities. The launch in May 2024 involved 40 active participants for 14 days – 17 from German rocket manufacturer, Hylmpulse, and 23 from Southern Launch. This equates to 560 visitor nights in the region. Additional visitors from South Australia, Victoria and Queensland also witnessed the event.

The coordination of the Aboriginal community, neighbouring landholders, Australian, State and local governments, Native Title groups, and local service providers are to be congratulated.

RDAEP has achieved in our role of attracting investments that will improve the economy and provide employment in the region.

Check out the successful ‘Light this Candle’ launch in May 2024: