Three successful NASA rocket launches from ELA with many more to come

Final NASA Rocket ELA

On Monday, 11th July 2022 the third of three rockets of the NASA series successfully launched from Arnhem Space Centre at 8:31pm in the Northern Territory.

Equatorial Launch Australia (ELA) originally scheduled the lift off on Tuesday night at 8:27pm ACST, however was pulled a day earlier than planned due to weather forecasts. The DEUCE (Dual-channel Extreme Ultraviolet Continuum Experiment) mission was to observe the Alpha Centauri constellation (aka Southern Cross pointers) in the 500 – 900 A spectral range for the University of Colorado. DEUCE is equipped with a star tracker system that will allow the equipment to find the correct stars. The NASA rocket carried the DEUCE science instrument to an altitude of 262km before descending by parachute and landing southwest of the Arnhem Space Centre launch site. The NASA Black Brant IX suborbital sounding rocket blast off was planned for optimal viewing – the time when Alpha Centauri is ‘in the right position in the sky’.

“The launch is set for a time when the scientific target will be high enough in the sky so our measurements are not disrupted by the atmosphere and the sun and the moon are not in the sky,” said Eric Roper, Mission Manager from the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, USA

Preliminary analysis shows that good data was received by the science instrument during the flight.

This mission compliments the previous mission, SISTINE (Suborbital Imaging Spectrograph for Transition region Irradiance from Nearby Exoplanet host stars), that was launched five days earlier, on 6th July 2022 after facing many delays. Both missions looked at the higher and the lower end of the so-far unstudied ultraviolet light spectrum of Alpha Centauri.

The two missions, DEUCE and SISTINE launched five days apart to work together to get a full picture of the ultraviolet light coming from Alpha Centauri A and B. Unfortunately, the full range of ultraviolet light can’t be measured with a single instrument, hence DEUCE measured the shorter, extreme-ultraviolet wavelengths and SISTINE measured the longer, far-ultraviolet wavelengths.

The successful launch was a great finale to the NASA campaign – consisting of three separate NASA rockets launched within fifteen days – marking the start of Equatorial Launch Australia as a commercial space centre for future launches and Australia’s space capacities.

“We are really proud to have achieved a very rare feat – three successful launches in just 15 days. Even more so given the challenging wind conditions,”

“We are also very pleased that the scientists involved with these launches are very happy with the results of the experiments,”

“Another successful launch at the Arnhem Space Centre further strengthens our team and builds the capability of the Australian space industry,”

“These missions with NASA have been an incredible chance to prove the capabilities of our team and facility and we are looking forward to welcoming more partners to the site.” – Michael Jones (CEO of ELA).

The three rockets’ scientific studies can only be conducted from the southern hemisphere.

Watch the two video clips of the third launch below:

Missed the live launch? Watch the third rocket lift off here.

Watch the SkyNews interview here.

DEUCE Arnhem rocket