Three rockets will be launched over a period of a month from the Arnhem Space Centre on the Dhupuma Plateau.
The government says the rockets will be used to investigate heliophysics, astrophysics and planetary science phenomena that can only be seen from the southern hemisphere.
It is the first time NASA rockets will be launched in Australia in over a quarter of a century and marks NASA’s first launch from a commercial site.
The traditional owners, the Gumatj people, have been consulted over the campaign and NASA will collect and remove all spent motor cases and payloads when the launches are finished.
Industry and Science Minister Ed Husic says it marks a new era for the Australian space sector.
“This is an important milestone that will further enhance Australia’s position as a launch destination,” he said.
Prime Minister in Darwin to announce launch
Seventy-five NASA personnel will travel to Australia for the launches, planned to be held from June 26 to July 12.
On the June 26 launch, the rocket will travel more than 300km in space.
Each rocket is about 13 meters in size and will arrive in Nhulunbuy via barge.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese officially announced the Arnhem Space Centre launch in Darwin yesterday morning, on his way back from his first bilateral talks in Indonesia.
Mr Albanese described the project as “really exciting”, and something all Australians could be proud of.
“These three launches are important, they’re for universities to do scientific research,” he said.
“These rockets will go some 250km north into the sky to collect data on the physics of the sun and its relationship with the earth.”
Russell Shaw, from site operator ELA, said each rocket had a “specific mission” that could only be conducted in the Southern Hemisphere because of its climate.
“They will be looking at particular transmissions coming out of those particular planets or suns which are closest to our solar system and then the other one is around the interstellar rays,” Mr Shaw said.
Mr Shaw said ELA saw the launches as the “first step” in the Arnhem Space Centre “becoming part of Australia’s sovereign launch capability”.
“Over the next few few years, we know that getting into space from Australia is real and it’s sustainable,” he said.
“We plan to further develop the Arnhem Space Centre in the next couple of years to be capable of launching more than 50 launches per annum.”
Arnhem Space Centre (ASC) ‘very attractive’ to global companies
Arnhem Space Centre is 12 degrees south of the equator on the Gulf of Carpentaria and “the only commercially-owned and run multi-user equatorial launch site in the world”, according to site operator ELA.
ELA executive chairman Michael Jones said the site’s geographic location, proximity to the equator and the extensive services offered nearby made the area “very attractive to global rocket companies”.
“The ASC offers Australian space businesses and international rocket and satellite companies a unique opportunity to launch from a site which provides cost-effective access to virtually any orbit they desire,” Mr Jones said.
Enrico Palermo, head of the Australian Space Agency, says the launch will “further cement” Australia’s reputation as “a nation that global space players want to do business with”.
“The growth of launch-related activities in Australia is helping to open up the full value chain of space activities, which will grow the sector and create new businesses and job opportunities here at home,” he said.
About Equatorial Launch Australia
ELA’s mission is to launch and recover objects flown to and from space by providing a flexible and responsive launch site and associated services.
While ELA offers rare efficiencies, the site can cater for all orbits, and all reliable technologies, providing sub-orbital and orbital access to space for commercial, research and government organisations. The secure site build includes utilities and facilities to meet the most stringent customer requirements, with payload integration, storage, and administration at the site.
As a client of the Entrepreneurs’ Program that is offered by Darwin Innovation Hub together with the Northern Territory Government, ELA is supported through the program’s unique services which give eligible businesses access to expert advice that money can’t buy, and financial support through grants and incentives. Learn more about the Entrepreneur’s Program here.
In 2019 and 2021, Paspalis Investment Innovation Fund (PIIF) invested into the company through the help of Darwin Innovation Hub.
PIIF is actively investing in high-growth innovation projects. The Fund will look to invest in Australian companies seeking growth in the Asia Pacific region and Asia Pacific companies looking to relocate to Australia where those companies are involved in ventures that provide an economic advantage to the Northern Territory. Learn more about PIIF here.