Indonesia makes a bid to be a potential rocket launch site for Elon Musk's SpaceX. President Joko Widodo engaged in talks with Musk in a phone call on Friday, as they also discussed a possible partnership with Tesla. The SpaceX billionaire has agreed to send a team to the south-east Asian country in January to look at potential investments.
Indonesia's National Institute of Aeronautics and Space (LAPAN) is eyeing to construct its first spaceport to be located in Biak, on the island of Papua. As it aims to put its large-scale aerospace development forward into the future, the government needs investors and SpaceX is one of its potential partners on the list.
SpaceX has had prior working experience with Indonesia in 2018, when the company launched Telkom Indonesia's Merah Putih satellite into orbit, using its Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
Indonesia has several space launch stations planned in the pipeline. The Russian Federal Space Agency (RKA) also previously worked on the Biak station plan in 2006 to develop it as a commercial launch site.
The Indonesian aerospace institute also identified the island of Morotai, located 920 kilometers northwest of Biak, as an ideal spaceport location as it boasts seven runways to support the planned spaceport logistics. It is relatively far from the other islands, which makes the area ideal and poses lower risk of civilian death in case of a space rocket crash incident.
According to the BBC, the Indonesian government is also looking into partnership possibilities in building an electric car battery plant in Central Java and partnering with Tesla Inc.. While being home to some of the world's largest deposits of copper, nickel and tin, Industry Minister Agus Gumiwang Kartasasmita said they are touting the country's abundance of these sought after commodities to lure billion dollar investments.
"Nickel is the biggest challenge for high-volume, long-range batteries! Australia and Canada are doing pretty well. US nickel production is objectively very lame. Indonesia is great!" Musk tweeted earlier this year.
A partnership could pave the way for Indonesia to become the world's biggest producer of electric vehicle batteries. President Jokowi had expressed seriousness with his electric car ambition, setting a target to have at least one in five cars to be powered by electric batteries by 2025.