Far out! NT is 'ideal location' for a new space base

THE Northern Territory could be the ideal location for an Australian space base.

Science Minister Arthur Sinodinos on Thursday announced former CSIRO chief Megan Clark would chair a review to examine the feasibility of a homegrown space industry.

Australia is one of only two OECD nations without a domestic space agency, and local satellite firms say Australia is missing out on an industry that is worth about $420 billion globally and growing at three times the annual growth rate of world GDP.

The Top End's proximity to the equator makes it a prime candidate for launches - the closer a site is to the equator the less thrust is required to get shuttles into space. Darwin Airport is one of two designated Australian emergency space shuttle landing sites.

Darwin astronomer Geoff Carr said Australia would have to compete in a heated market against well-established players. "I think we should perhaps accommodate launches, but not go so far as to have our own space program yet - that would be way out of our league and we wouldn't get value for money out of it," he said.

"But on a purely aesthetic level, it would be fabulous to see launches close by."

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