The Australian space industry is in orbit thanks to NASA
The first of three flights planned in total from the space center in Arnhem (northern Australia). The rocket, which carries a small space telescope described as a “mini Hubble”, took off to an altitude of 350 km in the starry night.
“This is a historic moment for us as a company in particular, but it’s also historic for Australia,” said Equatorial Launch Australia CEO Michael Jones before liftoff.
Equatorial Launch Australia owns and operates the launch site in the far north of the island. Jones described Sunday’s June 26 liftoff as the “coming out” of the Australian space industry and welcomed the chance to work with NASA.
The flight experienced several delays due to rain and wind, the suborbital-sounding rocket was able to depart to study X-rays emanating from the stars Alpha Centauri A and B, which together form a binary star.
After reaching its goal, the rocket’s payload will record data on the binary system before descending to Earth by parachute.
NASA said the launch offers unique insights into other solar systems and provides new opportunities for scientists.
“We look forward to launching important science missions from the Southern Hemisphere and observing targets we can’t see from the United States,” Nicky Fox, director of NASA’s Heliophysics Department, had said in introducing the mission in Washington.
Jones said the unique location has complicated preparations: rockets must be brought from Darwin to the site – a 28-hour drive – and it has taken years of work to get all the official approvals.
The next launch is scheduled for July 4, leaving little time for the team – time to “dust ourselves off, take a day off, then get back to it,” according to Jones.
This is the first NASA rocket to lift off from Australia since 1995. Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese hailed the start of a “new era” for his country’s space industry.