This month, NASA will launch three rockets into orbit from the Northern Territory, Australia which will be the first time the space research agency has launched rockets from a commercial facility outside the U.S.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese announced this week that Australia had awarded regulatory authorization for the rockets to be launched from privately owned Equatorial Launch Australia’s (ELA) Arnhem Space Centre.
He said the country’s relationship with the space sector could be traced back to the 1950s and that the government ought to build on the heritage that has been established.
“This is a really exciting project,” Albanese said. “The idea that NASA is directly involved here in Australia should be something of pride for all Australians.”
“This project will bring together global and local industry to take Australia’s space sector into a new era,” he added.
The project will be the first time NASA has launched rockets from Australia since 1995, when launches were executed from the Royal Australian Air Force Woomera Range Complex in South Australia.
The three scientific suborbital-sounding missiles will be launched from the Arnhem Space Centre (ASC) between June 26 and July 12. The missions will explore heliophysics, astrophysics, and planetary science phenomena that can only be observed from the southern hemisphere. NASA will send approximately 75 personnel to the Northern Territory for the project.
Equatorial Launch Australia (ELA) owns and operates ASC, located on the Gulf of Carpentaria, 12 degrees south of the equator. This location offers many advantages not available at any other space facility worldwide.
Michael Jones, executive chairman and group CEO of ELA, said that having NASA as their first client shows tremendous approval of the new spaceport, proving that with the ASC, Australia now has sovereign launch capacity and access to space.
“It is a tremendous honor and reward for the hard work our company has carried out in developing the ASC to have NASA launch these three missions with us,” he stated.
He added, “This campaign is just the start for us as we are in advance commercial discussions with nine other major rocket companies, and we hope to carry out at least two additional launches in 2022 before ramping up our launch cadence to over 50 launches per year by 2024-25.”
Enrico Palermo, the head of the Australian Space Agency, acknowledged that the Northern Territory project would strengthen Australia’s standing as a country to collaborate with on space efforts.
“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.
Chief Minister of the Northern Territory, Natasha Fyles, stated: “NASA is adding capacity and rocketing East Arnhem Land into the global spotlight for investors — this will help our industry grow, create more jobs for locals and more opportunities for businesses to expand.”
The Gumatj people were involved in the project’s approval process since the ASC is located on their land.