Jakarta, BRIN Public Relations – Head of the Aeronautics and Space Research Organization of the National Research and Innovation Agency (BRIN), Robertus Heru stated that the strategic function of the Biak Spaceport is not only for satellite launches, but if realized, it will give inspiration for Indonesia’s young generation to build a knowledge-based economy.

“Space technology, such as launch of satellites, is a type of business that is capital intensive and human resource skilled. This technology may encourage future generations of Indonesia to not only rely on exploitation of natural resources,” explained Heru in an interview with one of the national print media (30/3).

In 2019, his organization offered SpaceX, a company led by Elon Musk, to invest in building a spaceport and launch pad for satellites in Biak. However, they said they already had enough place in America.

Heru explained that neither Elon Musk nor his company said they would invest in Biak for satellite launches. It’s just that they develop intercontinental flights with rockets. So they are looking for places for take-off and landing in Asia, one of which is in Indonesia. “Of course, if the investment is desired, we will be ready to accommodate,” he said.

On the other hand, Heru explained that the Biak Spaceport planning process has been going on for a long time. Based on documents previously available at the Center for Aviation and Space Policy Studies (KKPA) LAPAN, Heru recounted, that in 1990 an American company E Prime came to LAPAN to conduct a joint study on the potential for satellite launches in Biak. However, the progress stalled. “At that time, LAPAN had acquired 100 ha of land in North Biak. But then E Prime discontinued the idea,” he said.

In fact, Biak is one of the best locations in Indonesia to launch satellites. Heru believes that if this geographical advantage is utilized, it will certainly have an economic impact on the people of Indonesia.

So far, his office has not officially conducted an environmental impact analysis study pursuant to laws and regulations. According to him, LAPAN had planned to do it in 2020, but the pandemic made necessary resources unavailable.

Furthermore, Heru also explained the concept of building a space airport which will highlight the conservation aspect. He said that so far, North Biak is only feasible for a spaceport with a safety range of 400-500 ha. With the scenario of launch pad on BRIN’s land, the closest distance to existing settlements is 2 km. So it will be very safe for the existence of community settlements.

This is similar to the Uchinoura spaceport in Japan, which is used to launch 100-ton rockets. If the launch pad is shifted to the south, the closest distance to a population is 3 km which can be used to launch larger rockets such as on the island of Hainan, China.

One of the concepts to naturally maintain the safety range is to make the airport supporting area a botanical garden (nature conservation/wildlife sanctuary). This is the case at the space airports of Florida – America, Shriharikota – India, and Uchinoura – Japan.

“It may also be done in other places, but I only have seen those three places. In Florida, for example, it is a place for the preservation of local species, i.e., crocodiles and birds, as also the case in India. In Japan, it is more of a botanical garden. Here, only technical facilities are fenced. The rest is left as natural forest,” he said. (jml/ed: drs)