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Carley’s story

Carley Scott has always known a lot about launching businesses. Now she also launches rockets.

As the CEO of Equatorial Launch Australia (ELA), Carley is in charge of Australia’s first commercial spaceport. The spaceport, also known as the Arnhem Space Centre, is located near Nhulunbuy in East Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory.

Carley started her career in economic development, working with city councils in Victoria. Her role was to help develop new industries and facilities including in areas where a major employer had closed down.

“When the automotive industry went through a huge transition, I was on the task force to help people through,” she says.

The idea for the spaceport came about during Carley’s previous job, where she was CEO of Developing East Arnhem Limited. Rio Tinto was getting ready to wind down their mining operations in the area, which would have a huge impact on local employment. They were a key shareholder and keen to see the company help build a sustainable economy when the mining came to an end.

Agriculture is usually the first option for remote economic development, but the community in East Arnhem Land had another idea – space. Being so close to the equator with low population density for hundreds of kilometres makes the area perfect for launching spacecraft. Carley worked with ELA to invite NASA to come and see what might be possible, and the idea for a commercial spaceport emerged.

Working with the Traditional Owners of the land, the Yolngu and Gumatj people, has been a big part of Carley’s work in the Northern Territory. “It’s a really good opportunity to not just do best practice in terms of aerospace, but to also integrate really good land management practices from a local cultural perspective,” she says.

There are three launchpads at the spaceport. Each is the size of a house block, and can launch rockets over 15 metres long with payloads up to the size of a washing machine. Several Australian companies are keen to launch from the site, as is NASA.

“If you can get close to the equator, you can get a really efficient launch because of the earth’s rotational velocity,” says Carley. “You need less fuel, so you can enhance payload weight in each rocket. You also get more suborbital observation time, which is a real benefit to NASA’s scientific experiments.”

Carley’s journey

  • Carley completed an Advanced Diploma of Business Administration at Chisholm Institute in 2001. In 2005, she graduated with a double degree from Monash University – Bachelor of Communications/Bachelor of Business/Commerce.
  • She then held a series of economic development and tourism roles with a number of city councils in Melbourne. 
  • From 2015 to 2018, Carley was the CEO of Developing East Arnhem Limited in the Northern Territory. Here she worked with the local community and NASA to investigate opportunities in the space industry.
  • In 2018, Carley joined Equatorial Launch Australia as CEO, where she leads Australia’s first commercial spaceport.
  • Carley has served on various boards and committees including CSIRO’s Advanced Manufacturing Advisory Committee, Defence Council Victoria, and the Space Industry Association of Australia.
  • In 2019, Carley was listed in the Australian Financial Review’s 100 Women of Influence.
  • In 2021, Carley was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia for services to the space industry and to the community of the Northern Territory.