One Ballarat business is playing a pivotal role in the construction of Australia's first spaceport in East Arnhem, Northern Territory.
The project is being constructed by Equatorial Launch Australia and a contract has already been signed with NASA for its rockets and payloads to be launched at the site upon its completion.
Commercial space enterprises such as SpaceX are also potential users of the spaceport.
The project could bring a much-needed injection of jobs and investment to the local economy which suffered through a tumultuous 2020 due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Delacombe business DW Controls has been contracted to design and construct the mains switchboard and install the site's power plant, a series of large diesel generators made by PR Power.
DW Controls will also build an exact replica of the site's launch pad and run proof of concept testing before everything is shipped to the future spaceport, located near Nhulunbuy on the Northern Territory's north-east coast, where they will reconstruct the power plant.
They will also be able to monitor and control the power plant from its Ballarat site once the spaceport is operational.
After 18 months of planning and pandemic-related delays, the first phase of the project got underway on Wednesday morning as the four main diesel generators were delivered to Ballarat.
Everything on the site will have to be constructed from scratch as it has no existing power or communications infrastructure.
DW Controls general manager Jeremy White said setting up a replica launch pad would allow the power plant to be deconstructed, shipped and reconstructed like a Meccano set.
"We've got a lot of items that have got to come in here, get positioned and then we've got to do all the comms between them," he said.
"There's a lot of testing that's got to go in because seeing as it's going to such a remote location. That's one of the key reasons why we've chosen to do a one-for-one scale, so if we need any extra equipment or another part, we're close by, we're not waiting for three or four weeks up on site for a part to come from Melbourne or Sydney or Adelaide."
Mr White said there was the potential for job creation throughout the project's development.
"Because it's been in the making over 18 months, the family at home has been has been asking if the project is going to happen... but to go home and say it's actually happening, we are going to press forward with this, is pretty exciting," he said.
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"The people that I've told, because now we can actually mention the project, people are saying 'what, we're building a spaceport in Australia?', because not a lot of people know that and there's other things that are going to come out in the future.
"It's pretty interesting what's gonna happen in the next five or six years, it is going to be unbelievable."
ELA manager power, communications and IT Marco Pavincich said the site's close proximity to the equator, just 12 degrees south, made it an optimal launch location.
"This is a massive milestone because all the power for the whole site will come from these four generators," he said.
"They'll be completely assembled here in Ballarat, together with all the supporting transformers, the diesel fuel tanks, and the switchboard with communications... will be inside a 40-foot container."
Project manager for the project's head electrical contractor Che Rogers said the spaceport would be one of just three in the southern hemisphere and would be aimed at commercial projects.
"This spaceport is more aimed at the commercial, low-orbit sort of smaller rockets and non-manned satellites, but it has the capacity to grow," he said.
"It will all be locally fabricated, local resources. Most of the big equipment is coming out of Victoria and most of the hands will be local labour."
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