Meet the talent: April Walker, Founder of Western Australia Spaceport

Place of residence: Perth, Western Australia 

Position: Founder of Western Australia Spaceport (WA Spaceport) and Azimuth 

Please describe a day in your life

I could start by listing out tasks such as checking my emails, talking with my Co-founder, reading newspapers, attending meetings, reading documents, etc but a more accurate description is doing whatever needs to be done to attribute to the vision of WA Spaceport and Azimuth which is… 

‘Space technology and exploration are possible to those with the courage to pursue it’. My day is consistently about problem-solving. It is rare a day passes without a problem that requires attention. 

How many projects are you currently working on? Please describe them

I am working on two projects – WA Spaceport and Azimuth. 

Tell us a bit more about Spaceport & Azimuth 

WA Spaceport is a launch facility located in the City of Albany, Western Australia. Our target is rapid launch. To achieve rapid launch, you require three capabilities: location and exploitation of incumbent infrastructure such as airports, seaports, and major road arterials. Our facility is a 30-40 minute drive from the airport and seaport and a 4-hour drive from Perth, and we use Fit-For-Purpose Design to ensure cost and time-inhibiting alterations are mitigated. 

Australian remote operations and defence are at risk from the threats posed by bureaucracy, technology transfer, tampering, denial of service and anti-satellite weaponry to its satellite technologies. This is attributed to Australia’s lack of a rapid launch domestic capability. 

Remote operations, including mine operations, farming operations, education, law enforcement and emergency response, exploit satellite communication navigation and earth observation technologies. Autonomous vehicles, including trains, farming equipment and trucks, rely on GPS via satellite positioning and direction. Emergency response for bushfires rely on satellite technology to equip first responders on the ground with up-to-date location and direction of the fire front. Climate monitoring relies on earth observation via satellite. 

The Australian Defence Force (ADF) exploits satellite communications in earth observation to maintain its operations domestically and abroad in real-time, uninterrupted, encrypted forms. Exploration of space technology to enhance ADF capabilities has increased as evidenced by satellites launched and new satellites planned increasing over the last several years to meet known and emerging operational requirements of the modern battle space. 

Achieving the vision of WA Spaceport has resulted in the founding of the sister company Azimuth. Azimuth is an RP-1 supplier based in Australia. RP-1 is a common launch vehicle fuel used globally. 

Meet the talent - April Walker
Meet the talent – April Walker

In your opinion, who is the most influential person/company in the world of technology these days?

I think it would be hard not to mention Elon Musk. I admire his achievements in space technology and exploration and his purchase of Twitter (now X). Free speech, once threatened, now has a better chance of survival. 

If you could pick one app/product/project existing now that you wish you were involved in, what would it be

Starship, SpaceX 

What would you like the industry to look like in ten years?

Space technology and exploration are possible for those with the courage to pursue it. Space is very political; the Australian space industry is no exception. Despite legislation allowing projects such as WA Spaceport to operate, the approval process is very politically driven.  The Australian space industry is characterised by a few companies and organisations. Projects such as WA Spaceport and Azimuth will change this status quo. 

What three characteristics do you have that make you successful in tech?

I always aim to understand the needs and wants of my target market better than anyone else. Do not assume the problems of your target market. Rely on empirical data, preferably collected by yourself. I never give up. Being told something is impossible keeps me motivated. I embrace being an outsider. 

What is the most challenging thing you had to deal with during your career?

It has to be navigating a broken system and understanding how the status quo in the Australian space industry came to be. The system is broken. It is my opinion WA Spaceport and Azimuth should not exist. Australia was the third nation to launch its satellite from its territory only after the United States of America and Russia. 

In 2024, Australia should have an established, innovative sovereign launch capability. To be clear, sovereign launch capability means no reliance on any foreign nation. Australia should be the global industry leader. Australia should already have licenced orbital launch facilities and RP1 supply established by the ecosystem. Australia is heavily reliant on other space-faring nations. Based on our heritage, this should not be the status quo. 

What is your greatest achievement up until today?

WA Spaceport was founded in 2019. My greatest achievement to date is not letting the doubters and sceptics stop progress on WA Spaceport or Azimuth. It has been my experience that the more your project benefits mankind, the more resistance you face. There are those in the Australian space ecosystem who do not want Australia to have sovereign capability only to protect their own interest. 

In your opinion, what could leaders do to bring more women into the field?

Base your hires on attitude and merit only. No educated, intelligent woman wants to be hired based on their gender. New Leaders need to stop fuelling this woke agenda that tells women they are victims. If you’re a woman in Australia, you are not a victim, and you do not deserve any special privileges, programmes or initiatives. 

What is your next goal?

WA Spaceport is subject to local, state, and federal regulations. My next goal is to obtain state government approval. 

Which famous person would you like to have dinner with and why?

I couldn’t decide which one and maybe not have dinner with everyone at the same time… Margaret Thatcher – Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1990. She is my hero. She demonstrated that no matter where you start in life, what you can achieve is entirely up to you. She started as the grocer’s daughter and became Prime Minister. I am certain she was not a diversity hire and became prime minister not because of her gender. Donald Trump is the 45th president of the United States of America. He took on the US political establishment and won. Ariel Sharon was the 11th prime minister of Israel. He was not interested in petty politics and was formidable and uncompromising in defending his country’s way of life. Finally, Vladimir Putin, President of Russia. I admire the sovereign space capability of his nation. 

Where would you like to travel next?

Brisbane, to see friends and family. As I live in Perth (on the opposite side of Australia), it is hard to make the time to travel to the other side of Australia. 

What did you dream of creating/inventing/doing as a child? 

I dreamt of world travel. I had a lot of interests as a child. I read widely on so many subjects. I was fascinated by anything and everything, including space. I recall being six years old, in the first grade of school and trying to demonstrate to my classmates on a basketball court the planets of our solar system (Pluto is a planet) and how far apart they were using some kind of scale. I am sure they thought I was nuts. I would never have guessed I would be attempting to contribute to Australia’s sovereign space launch capability. 

What tips do you give to women who want to go into leadership?

Understand what skills and experience you have that cannot be brought into an organisation by anyone else. Work on developing your resilience. 

Andriani has been working in Publishing Industry since 2010. She has worked in major Publishing Houses in UK and Greece, such as Cambridge University Press and ProQuest. She gained experience in different departments in Publishing, including editing, sales, marketing, research and book launch (event planning). She started as Social Media Manager in 4i magazine, but very quickly became the Editor in Chief. At the moment, she lives in Greece, where she is mentoring women with job and education matters; and she is the mother of 3 boys.