The US government space agency NASA will launch two rockets from the Northern Territory later in the month, from the Arnhem Space Centre.
Seventy-five NASA personnel will be in Australia for the launches, marking the first time NASA has launched rockets from Australia since 1995.
Head of the Australian Space Agency Enrico Palermo welcomed the launch, saying it was an expansion of the collaboration between the two nations’ peaceful use of outer space.
“This is another signal that Australia is ‘go for launch’ — and will further cement our 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,” Palermo said.
The first rocket, to be launched on 26 June, will be used to observe the Alpha Centauri A&B constellations.
It is also the first time NASA has used a commercial launch site outside of the United States.
Executive chair and group CEO of Equitorial Launch Australia (ELA) Michael Jones, the owner of the Arnhem Space Centre, called the news an historic milestone. Jones continued to thank NASA, the Northern Territory government, and his staff and investors.
“It is a remarkable achievement what we have done and all the more so, given we have had no federal government support to date. We haven’t made bold predictions in the past; we just quietly went about our work and now we are set to achieve a couple of incredible firsts in the space history of Australia,” Jones said.
The site of the launch is on the lands of the Gumatj people. The government has said it has consulted with the Traditional Custodians and Landowners about the launch.
NASA has a ‘clean range policy’, with the payloads from the launch to be returned to the US post-launch.