In a first for Australia, the US space agency NASA will launch a rocket from a remote area of the Northern Territory on Sunday night.
The rocket will launch from the Arnhem Space Centre near Nhulunbuy, on the lands of the Gumatj people, who were consulted throughout the process.
The rocket is due to launch from the red dirt at about 10.45 pm on Sunday, but it will only be visible for ten seconds before disappearing.
Camera IconNASA will launch a rocket from the Arnhem Space Centre in the Northern Territory on Sunday night. Credit: News Corp Australia
A 13m “sounding rocket” will carry an atmospheric observation platform to examine the Alpha A and B constellations.
The rocket is expected to travel 300 km during the 15 minutes it moves through space.
It will be the first time the internationally renowned space agency has launched a rocket from a commercial port outside the USA.
The rocket will also be the first to leave Australian soil in 26 years since the 1995 launches from the Royal Australian Air Force Woomera Range Complex.
Northern Territory Chief Minister Natasha Fyles called it “a landmark occasion for the Top End”.
“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,” she said.
Camera IconNASA has installed telemetry equipment to facilitate the launch. Amanda Parkinson Credit: News Corp Australia
The rocket is the first of three NASA-designed missiles to be launched from the remote NT space center, which will not enter orbit but instead collect valuable scientific information about the physics of the Sun, astrophysics, and the type of planetary science which can only be conducted in the southern hemisphere.
In a joint announcement between the NT and federal governments, the rocket launches were praised as a watershed moment for the Australian space industry.
“This project will bring together the global and local industry to take Australia’s space sector into a new era,” Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said.
Both governments hope collaborating with NASA will encourage future joint scientific endeavors between Australia and the USA.
Camera IconNASA launch pads can be seen in the Arnhem Space Centre. Credit: Supplied
Australian Space Agency head, Enrico Palermo, said the launch was a significant milestone in the growth of space activities.
“This is another signal that Australia is going for launch — and will further cement our reputation as a nation that global space players want to do business with,” he said.
The launches mark a historic collaboration between some of the world’s foremost scientists and the world’s oldest living continuous culture.
The launch pad is on traditional land, which NASA has pledged to clean up after the launch by returning all the material and debris to the US.
The Arnhem Space Centre is owned and operated by Equatorial Launch Australia, which hopes to drastically increase its capability to host 50 launches a year by 2024.
Camera IconThe Arnhem Space Centre site is 31 km outside Nhulunbuy. ELA Credit: Supplied
CEO Michael Jones said the site’s geographic location and proximity to the equator would attract international space agencies.
“Our proximity to the equator being 12 degrees south gives us an astrodynamic and physics advantage over many launch sites worldwide and is highly desirable for large and complex orbital solutions in space,” he told SKY News.
The launch will be live-streamed at ntnews.com.au from about 10 pm on Sunday.