The Wikipedia article on Christmas Island says...

The Australian government in 2001 agreed to support the creation of a commercial spaceport on the island; however, this has not yet been constructed, and appears that it will not proceed.

However, I found another article that says that...

Asia Pacific Space Centre (Asia Pacific) is an Australian company that owns and operates a commercial satellite launch facility known as the Asia Pacific Space Centre (APSC) on the Australian territory of Christmas Island.

Construction began in 2001. The first launch took place in 2003 for the National Space Development Agency of Japan (NASDA), now part of JAXA.

I even found a paper that says that...

The Japanese Taisei Corp ... has proposed a facility on Christmas Island which combines EM and rocket propulsion in a hybrid scheme to launch a space shuttle.

And more info from the US GAO report entitled "AEROSPACE PLANE TECHNOLOGY Research and Development Efforts in Japan and Australia".

Taisei Corporation, a major Japanese construction company, is studying Spaceplane Launch the feasibility of a Linear Motor Catapult (launch) System for a Space Concepts Vehicle. The concept would consist of a track on a conical framework constructed of high-tensile steel alloy. The curved launch ramp would measure 2,000 meters high and 3,650 meters long. Tracks from five spaceplane orbiter hangars would feed into the launch track. The spaceplane orbiter would be launched vertically by a linear motor cart system powered by superconducting magnets. Figure 3.4 shows an artist’s concept of a linear motor catapult launch system. enter image description here

There doesn't seem to be a spaceport on the island now though.

enter image description here

To what extent were plans for a spaceport on Christmas Island advanced, and what hindered further progress from being made?


2 Answers 2


The Wikipedia article on Christmas Island is incorrect (to quote Gomer Pyle, "Surprise, surprise, surprise")with regard to the location of the proposed Asia Pacific Space Centre. The Aerospace Technology article also got it wrong. It appears that even the government of Australia got it wrong; the legislation that authorized the government's support for Asia Pacific Space Centre, Ltd. referenced the "Territory of Christmas Island" and the "Christmas Island Act 1958."

Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean appears to be a lousy location for a launch site. Getting into a prograde equatorial orbit from there would require a dogleg to the northeast, which would take the launch vehicle over Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. It's general not a good idea to have failed launch vehicles crash on populated areas (or to drop spent first stages on populated areas), and even less of a good idea if those populated areas belong to another country.

The island in question is instead Kiritimati in the Republic of Kiribati, which was formerly known as Christmas Island. (The pronunciation of Kiritimati in Gilbertese is "Christmas".) This is the island where Asia Pacific Space Centre, Ltd proposed to build the Asia Pacific Space Centre. The company had made lease agreements with the Republic the Kiribati that allowed the company to operate lease-free for nine years. Kiribati would have started charging rather significant fees after the expiration of that nine year lease-free period.

As opposed to Chrismas Island in the Indian Ocean, Kiritimati appears to be an ideal location for a launch site as it's almost on the equator and there's nothing to the east except ocean for thousands of kilometers.

Some construction was begun in 2001 and continued into 2002. Japan did launch a suborbital vehicle from the proposed site, an abandoned airfield. But then construction stopped. Whether construction stopped because of high costs (the logistics of getting material to such a remote island is terrible) or because of flimflammery is not clear. I would not rule out flimflammery. The confusion over the location of the center appears to have been intentional on the part of Asia Pacific Space Centre, Ltd, and the company changed hands (and changed names) multiple times.

In any case, the Australian government withdrew their support for the agreement with the follow-on to Asia Pacific Space Centre, Ltd in 2006 due to lack of sufficient progress by an end of 2005 deadline. The Australian government completely killed the deal in 2009 because after that the Australian government would have had to pay significant leasing fees to the Republic of Kiribati for a non-existent space center.

  • $\begingroup$ The link you provided strongly suggests that the Wikipedia article, at least, is correct about "which island". $\endgroup$
    – phil1008
    Commented Feb 22 at 20:58
  • $\begingroup$ @phil1008 That was part of what I believe is flimflammery. The Japanese mission definitely launched from Kiritimati, Asia Pacific Space Centre, Ltd definitely negotiated a nine year lease-free lease agreement with the Republic of Kiribati, and Australia definitely canceled the agreement in 2009 lest they have to pay Kiribati very expensive leases for a non-existent space center. I'll eventually add links to that effect. My link does cover the final item; it shows that the agreement was canceled in 2009. Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean is a terrible choice for a launch site. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 22 at 22:46
  • $\begingroup$ What's this part about "...lest they have to pay Kiribati..."? I see no evidence of Australia having anything to do with plans for Kiribati. The Guardian has a good article though. $\endgroup$
    – phil1008
    Commented Feb 23 at 2:48

In terms of the Australian Christmas Island the first thing to be aware of is that there are strong political drivers to keep the island inhabited and financially active due advantage in maintaining the EEZ. This makes for a lot of proposals that tend to fizzle out as people start looking at details beyond 'special tax zone' .

In rocketry terms the island manages to be both logistically hard get to AND close to neighbors likely to be unhappy about dropped stages, assuming equatorial launch. Many Pacific islands offer better down range safe zones and logistical access.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ The Australian Christmas Island was not the intended location of the now defunct Asia Pacific Space Centre. The company behind the proposal intended that that space center instead be located on the island in the Pacific formerly known as Christmas Island. It is now called Kiritimati, whose pronunciation in Gilbertese is the same as the English pronunciation of Christmas. The logistical access to that island is even worse than logistical access to Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean. The equatorial location of and the downrange safety on Kiritimati however are superb. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 22 at 9:19
  • $\begingroup$ @DavidHammen agree, mainly mentioned the Indian Ocean CI because there seems to be a strong tendency for it to attract breathless press releases that then muddy search results forever more. Your much better answer untangles the threads quite nicely, including the fact that the Australian Government seems to have even confused itself. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 22 at 10:26

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