Adelaide-born astronaut Andy Thomas is pushing a $150 million project to turn the Woomera rocket range into an international spaceport for tourists.
Dr Thomas has told the Federal Government about his 10-year plan to use the outback site to send international tourists into space and launch satellites.
He outlined his plan to Science Minister Julie Bishop last month when he visited Australia, and this week wrote to her about the initiative.
"She was very excited," Dr Thomas said.
"It gave her a new appreciation. I don’t think a lot of people in federal politics realise the value of Woomera."
Dr Thomas said he had already spoken with the University of Adelaide about conducting a feasibility study on his plan.
"This project needs bipartisan support and it’s in Australia’s long-term interest," he said.
Under the plan, the Federal Government would spend $150 million over 10 years to upgrade Woomera and build new infrastructure.
Dr Thomas said Australia should follow the lead of the US state of New Mexico, which has just allocated $150 million to build a facility for space tourists near its White Sands missile range.
"It will need something of that magnitude," he said.
"I think that’s something that Australia needs to get on board with.
"One of the best places in the world to run commercial space flights is Woomera."
The space shuttle veteran said Woomera was perfectly suited for space flight because it was dry, had stable weather, already had important technical infrastructure and "has a down-range area that is safe".
"What a great place to have a space adventure," he said.
"It just takes an investment, a will to do it and a commitment like New Mexico has done."
The space tourism adventure market is worth billions of dollars and is being led by Virgin entrepreneur Richard Branson, who has formed the company Virgin Galactic to send tourists into space.
Virgin Galactic has reportedly already signed up 38,000 people who have paid part of the $280,000 fee to be flown 100km above Earth to the edge of the atmosphere and experience six minutes of weightlessness.
The tourists would fly in a rocket-powered glider designed by commercial space pioneer Burt Rutan. It would launch from the belly of a large aircraft.
"Space tourism will be running into the billions of dollars in the years to come," Dr Thomas said. "It’s amazing how many people have got that cash lying around."
Several companies besides Virgin Galactic are planning to send tourists into space, including US-based Space Adventures, which recently announced plans to build spaceports in Singapore and the United Arab Emirates.
Space Adventures has already sent three civilians into space – Dennis Tito in 2001, Mark Shuttleworth in 2002 and Greg Olsen in 2005.
Each paid $27 million to stay on the International Space Station, circling the Earth for several days.
The company is now taking bookings for a $138,000 trip to the edge of space.