National News

NASA rockets to launch from NT in ‘history-making’ space moment

Three NASA rockets will launch from Arnhem Space Centre in the Northern Territory later this month, marking the first NASA launch from a commercial facility outside the US.

The launches will mark the first time a rocket has been launched from Australian soil since a takeoff from the Royal Australian Air Force Woomera Range Complex in 1995.

The Australian government said it had signed off on the research rocket launches between June 26 and July 12 this year, in a "history-making moment for the local space sector".

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Arnhem Space Centre

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese arrived in Darwin from Makassar, Indonesia, on Tuesday night, where he'd been on he and Foreign Minister Penny Wong met with President Joko Widodo in an effort to "strengthen" ties with the region.

"We can trace Australia's celebrated connection to the space industry back to the 1950s," Albanese said in a statement ahead of Wednesday's announcement.

"As a nation we have to build on that legacy. 

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"This project will bring together global and local industry to take Australia's space sector into a new era."

Arnhem Space Centre

Northern Territory Chief Minister Natasha Fyles called the launches "a landmark occasion for the Top End". 

"We have backed this project from inception, which I have seen firsthand, and now we're less than a month away from seeing the launch of NASA's first sounding rocket from the Arnhem Space Centre," Fyles said.

"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 Arnhem Space Centre is located near Nhulunbuy, on the lands of the Gumatj people, with the traditional owners being consulted as part of the approval process.

About 75 personnel from NASA will be in Australia for the sub-orbital sounding rocket launches, which are on a mission to investigate heliophysics, astrophysics and planetary science phenomena only observable from the southern hemisphere.  

"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," Australian Space Agency head Enrico Palermo said.

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