NASA has been lending a hand to build an outback launch pad in the Northern Territory, ahead of the space agency’s first lift-off from a commercial site outside the USA.
About 25 NASA personnel are on-site at the Arnhem Space Centre, near Nhulunbuy, about 650km east of Darwin, to help prepare it for the launch of three orbital sounding rockets next year.
They’re expected to carry scientific instruments into space for research purposes.
The NASA team has been preparing the rocket launcher, tracking systems and other support systems that will be needed for the launch campaign in mid-2022.
“As of today we officially have our medium mobile launcher installed on the Equatorial Launch Australia launch pad,” NASA-sounding rockets operations manager Scott Bissett said Thursday.
ELA chief executive Carley Scott said working with NASA would help build capacity in the Australian commercial space launch sector.
It also signals the site is ready to support world-leading commercial rocket launch activity, along with science, and education projects.
“This is a significant contract and cross-nation scientific collaboration,” she said.
Up to 60 more NASA staff are expected to arrive in the former mining town of about 3000 people for the launch campaign.
Equatorial Launch Australia is constructing the Arnhem Space Centre.
According to the NT government, the Australian launch market could be worth up to US$930 million over the next decade, with an additional 20,000 jobs in the sector by 2030.