The US space agency NASA has completed its first commercial space launch from Australia late on Sunday, the first of three rockets planned for launch from the Arnhem Space Centre on the Gove Peninsula over the next two weeks.
Equatorial Launch Australia, the developer, owner and operator of the Arnhem Space Centre announced the successful launch – NASA’s first from a fully commercial spaceport – which took place at mid-night on Sunday local time.
Two other launches are planned for July 4 and July 12, each to conduct astrophysics studies that can only be done from the southern hemisphere. The launch involved a BBIX rocket travelling more than 300 kms in space and carrying an atmospheric observation/sensing platform to observe the AlphaCentauri A & B constellations.
The Arnhem Space Centre is the only commercially owned and run multi-user equatorial launch site in the world, located 12 degrees south of the equator on the Gulf of Carpentaria.
ELA says the facility offers unique benefits for space launches and is unusual as most spaceports around the world are government owned and operated.
Witnessing the launch at the Arnhem Space Centre were traditional owners, the NT chief minister Natasha Fyles, US consul-general Kathleen Lively, and representative from the Australian Space Agency and the space industry.
“We are delighted to announce the successful completion of our first commercial space launch with our customer, NASA,” said Equatorial Launch Australia chief executive Michael Jones, saying this would be the first of many such launches.
“We could never have dreamed of having such a supportive, experienced and professional partner as NASA. They have been unbelievably generous in helping us through this journey and we will be a much better organisation for their support,” Mr Jones said.
“Today’s launch not only puts ELA at the forefront of global commercial space launch, it also confirms that we and Australia can provide access to space and this is just the beginning for us.
“It is a tremendous honour to celebrate the success of this milestone launch with NASA and everyone here at the Arnhem Space Centre will now refocus to ensure the success of the next two launches in July.
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