South of the Equator: The unique benefits of launching from an Australian equatorial spaceport

South of the Equator: The unique benefits of launching from an Australian equatorial spaceport

More than 50 launches a year. That’s the goal for Equatorial Launch Australia’s spaceport in the Northern Territory. The Arnhem Space Centre (ASC), as the spaceport is known, is strategically located at the top of Australia in East Arnhem Land, about 35km from the town of Nhulunbuy. The ASC is the world’s leading multi-user commercial spaceport, and the only one to have successfully launched into space, three times. The location – on lands leased from traditional owners represented by the Gumatj Corporation – is 12o South of the equator. This was no accident. Spaceports located within +/- 15o of the equator provide a unique opportunity for rocket companies. Launching East from these locations allow rockets to be effectively launched with the positive benefit of the Earth’s rotational velocity – into the spin of the Earth.


Despite the obvious benefits for space launches, the location in the NT provides some challenges, however, ELA has taken an approach of rigorously evaluating each challenge and devising and implementing comprehensive solutions to turn those challenges into positives and offer its clients a compelling case for coming down under to launch to space. The logistics of getting rockets and sensitive high value payloads to the outback is one such challenge. “We have done an enormous amount of work and partnered with the very best sea freight, logistics and air freight companies in the world to come up with delivery systems that will be the envy of spaceports globally” said General Manager Operations and Launch, Ben Tett. “The other challenge we really focus on is maximising the mission reliability and mission assurance aspect for each client. One element of this requires us to be a bit of a ‘Swiss army knife’ for each customer by designing advanced and flexible launch systems that can be adapted to the particular demands and specifications of each client.”


Discussing the mission benefits of launching from an equatorial spaceport, Mission & Orbit Specialist, Stephanie Marsh, from ELA’s Launch Operations Team said “the surface of the Earth is travelling faster at the equator than at any other point on the globe – 460m/s- due to the rotational motion of the planet. As a result, rockets launched from sites near the equator receive an additional natural boost to get into orbit, reducing the amount and cost of fuel needed, and thereby increasing payload capacity,” she said. “At a 12o South latitude, the ASC greatly benefits from this effect of Earth’s rotation, and this advantage – achievable because of our spaceport’s location – can be leveraged by rocket companies looking to capitalise on launch efficiencies.”

Orbit options from the Arnhem Space Centre – a unique feature of the ASC’s location is the ability to efficiently access equatorial orbits (altitudes indicative only).


ELA’s Launch Operations Team is also working on other launch efficiencies for its customers. Ben adds that there are a number of services that ELA will be offering customers considering launching from the ASC, that set it apart from other launch sites around the world. In addition to a unique service offering and suite of value-added services and customised facilities which are provided to launchers and designed to make rocket companies lives easier, ELA has complete control over the operation of the ASC range and launch schedule. “The ASC is a commercially controlled range, as opposed to one that is controlled by governments,” said Ben. “This feature in itself, allows for the ability to control the launch schedule and required airspace restricted areas such that if weather conditions are looking poor for a scheduled launch date and everything is ready for launch, the launch can go ahead early,” he said. “This is what occurred for the third launch we did with NASA in mid-2022 which was unique for them because it meant that instead of risking a week of scrubs (cancelled launches) due to weather, we were able to be flexible to ensure the launch occurred ahead of plan, which almost never happens in space launch.”


Other orbit options from the ASC

Launch scheduling is not the only flexible option available to customers using ELA’s Arnhem Space Centre. The spaceport also offers a number of orbit capability options.

Low-mid inclination orbits between 20 to 40o inclinations (or tilt of the orbit from the reference plane of the equator) are also feasible from the ASC. The extra analysis ELA conducts during the Australian Launch Permit process for each rocket ensures that these inclinations are planned and conducted safely and in accordance with risk hazard analysis regulations in the Australian Flight Safety Code.

The ASC can also provide access to polar orbits subject to risk analysis and mission objectives. Polar orbits pass over (or nearly over) the poles of the Earth, with deviations of up to 30 degrees still classed as polar orbits. Like other international space ports such as Vandenberg on the US West Coast, for southern launches from ASC a small ‘dog-leg’ manoeuvre is required to avoid Groote Eylandt but the launch then generally has a clear pathway over the very low populated areas of interior Australia.


Sun-Synchronous Orbits

Sun-Synchronous Orbits (SSOs) are a special type of polar Low Earth Orbit (LEO) sought after for the global coverage and consistent positioning that they provide in relation to the movement of the sun. To achieve and sustain an SSO, the nodal precession rate of the orbit must be equal to the Earth’s mean motion. “This requires launching to very specific inclinations,” said Stephanie. “Generally, between 97 and 98 degrees, as dependent on the altitude to which the rocket is launching.”


Launching over land – a unique opportunity in Australia

Australia presents the unique opportunity for launching over land, as its deserts form the largest arid region in the southern hemisphere with some of the lowest recorded population densities in the world. With population densities as low as one person per 100-200km2, launching over land becomes a feasible alternative in Australia to launching exclusively over ocean, which is being done by the majority of other launch sites in the world. “This ability to access low, mid and high inclination orbits is of great benefit for international clients seeking primary or secondary launch locations that can provide this range of orbits, supporting them in servicing a wider range of payload clients,” said Ben.

Since the NASA launches in mid-2022, the Arnhem Space Centre has been undergoing a redevelopment to prepare for a higher launch cadence and provide more dedicated customer facilities. ‘Phase 2 is progressing well and is being rolled out since completing the NASA launches with expected completion by mid-2025,’ said Ben. ‘The inclusion of ITAR compliant, airconditioned and humidity controlled horizontal rocket and payload integration facilities with ISO 8 clean rooms; customisable launch pad mounting configurations, and enhanced mission centres utilising innovative Epsilon3 software for complex engineering, tracking and testing are all examples of lengths we are going to on our mission to be the pre-eminent multi-user commercial space launch company, offering world-class launch services.’


Artist impression of a standard launch pad located within one of the seven Space Launch Complexes at the Arnhem Space Centre.

Phantom Space Corporation and ELA expand scope of future equatorial orbit launches from ASC

Phantom Space Corporation and ELA expand scope of future equatorial orbit launches from ASC

Equatorial Launch Australia (ELA) the developer, owner and operator of the Arnhem Space Centre (ASC) on the Gove Peninsula in Australia’s Northern Territory,  having previously signed an undisclosed Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with American space transportation and rocket manufacturing company Phantom Space Corporation in Sept 2022, is now working towards a multi-launch contract as well as expanding the scope and detail of future cooperation to develop mission profile and launch requirements for multiple launches from the ASC.

The scope expansion is both in the detail and conduct of Phantom’s planned launches from Australia, but also very ‘payload customer’ oriented with investigation into expansion of potential commercial and sovereign customers in the Asia Pacific region. In particular, the two companies will collaborate and investigate the generation and support of a space mission of national significance for Australia and the Asia Pacific region.

The announcement today at the 38th Space Symposium highlighted the intention of Phantom Space to expand its launch base options with a pure commercial and equatorial launch site through ELA. Phantom also plans to launch from both Vandenberg Space Force Base as well as Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.

ELA rose to prominence as an international multi-user commercial spaceport after successfully completing three commercial space launches with NASA over a 15-day period in mid in 2022. These launches were Australia’s first ever commercial launches as well as Australia’s first space launch in more than 25 years, as well as the first launches for NASA from a commercial spaceport.

The expanded scope of MOU will see Phantom work with ELA to execute both a multi-launch deal for commercial equatorial orbit launches from the ASC as a “resident launcher”, as well as both parties engaging with sovereign and commercial customers to develop and design orbital missions of national importance and significance. The timing of future launches will be dependent on the conclusion of a Technology Safeguards Agreement being signed between the United States and Australia which is currently being negotiated and is expected to be in place by early 2024.

ELA’s “resident launcher concept” would see Phantom occupy a customised version of ASC’s standard 1200sqm Horizontal Integration Facility (HIF) which has all the necessary infrastructure for long term residency, such as ISO8 clean rooms, over-head cranes, storage facilities, offices and workshops. Phantom would also launch from one of two ASC standard launch pads allocated to Phantom,  customised for Phantom’s unique requirements.

ELA is currently undertaking Phase 2 expansion of the Arnhem Space Centre with an additional 2200 acres being added adjacent to the existing licenced spaceport. The ASC Phase 2 expansion includes at least 14 new orbital pads (allocated two per launch complex), up to 7 HIF facilities, a fuel and gases facility including the production of Liquid Oxygen (LOX), space weather facilities and comprehensive launch, mission and range control facilities and extensive communications and tracking equipment.

The ASC is the only commercially owned and run, multi-user equatorial launch site in the world and is located 12 degrees south of the equator on the Gulf of Carpentaria, offering unique benefits for space launches. ASC is also unique as most spaceports are federal/government owned/operated facilities.

ELA and Phantom’s announcement is the first of several agreements ELA is expecting to announce in mid-2023 as it ramps up its operations following the success of the NASA missions.

Michael Jones, Executive Chairman and Group CEO of ELA said the agreement with Phantom was the next step forward for Australia’s space industry.

“We are delighted to announce this partnership with Phantom Space Corporation which has been developing for some time. We are really keen for Phantom to become a resident launcher and access our world-leading launch site at the Arnhem Space Centre to take Australia’s space industry to the next level,” said Mr Jones.

“We liked Phantom from the outset, their technology, commercial philosophy and quite frankly they have been a launch mentor for us from our first meeting. Their experience and knowledge is a clear standout in the small launcher market.

“Last year’s successful launches with NASA allowed us to showcase the skill and capabilities of both ELA and the ASC to the world. We’re excited to embark on that journey again, this time with Phantom Space Corporation.

“This announcement not only confirms ELA’s position at the forefront of global commercial space launch, it also confirms Australia as a partner for all companies looking to launch, particularly those that want the unique benefits the ASC provides.”

Mark Lester, COO of Phantom Space said, “Launch sites are akin to gates at an airport—it’s imperative to have a robust portfolio to meet customer needs.  Arnhem Space Centre fits perfectly into Phantom’s strategy as it broadens our direct access to new orbital regimes with a proven spaceport.  In addition to ASC’s unique geography, ELA’s success with NASA’s space launches and their ability to provide a full-service spaceport at low cost were key elements in selecting ASC as our next dedicated launch site. We look forward to continuing to work with the ELA team to provide assured access to space for our customers.”

Phantom’s CEO Jim Cantrell said, “Australia has been a great friend to the United States throughout the years and we at Phantom are proud to lead the way in utilizing this unique new launch complex from Australia.  We look forward to the success of this partnership in the great tradition of the history between the two countries.”

About Phantom Space Corporation

Phantom Space Corporation is a US-based space services company providing all-in capabilities for satellite manufacturing to business and government clients: satellite design and production, rocket design and construction, launch services, and constellation management. It was founded by Jim Cantrell and Michael D’Angelo, both inventors and entrepreneurs in 2019. The company aims to provide reliable and affordable access to space to a broad set of new space users.  To learn more, visit

About ELA

ELA aspires to be the pre-eminent multi-user commercial Space Launch company, providing world-class launch services supporting testing, launch and recovery of space vehicles and payloads flown to and from all space orbits.

ELA and the proximity of the ASC to the equator offers rocket companies and their payload customers operational freedom and simplicity for both their launch and mission design.

With access to the full range of orbits and inclinations from >12° to <110° (south) we provide the following value-added services supporting the mission and launch:

  • Mission/Launch planning and feasibility,
  • ASA Permit and regulation management,
  • Full scope launch preparation and conduct including: logistics, operations management and launch/range control and management,
  • Recovery of vehicles/stages,
  • Full test and Range services avail for both commercial and military customers using our Arnhem Space Test and Evaluation Range (ASTERTM),
  • Payload management, and
  • Fuel/gas production, acquisition, storage and preparation.

Our method of operation is to anticipate requirements and reduce client risk and associated admin/logistics burden for all operational launch scenarios.

Semi-permanent ‘Resident Launcher’ arrangements available for one to multiple serviced pads.

Due to our low cost base, equatorial launch benefits and flexible access to space, ELA provides a world class value proposition.





Phantom Space Corporation

Amanda Hudswell – Head of Marketing & Communications


M. 0403166947

Mark Lester – COO


M: +1 719 661 1843




Epsilon 3 Partnership

Epsilon 3 Partnership

ELA has recently partnered with Epsilon3 who produce software for complex engineering, testing, and operational procedures as a service. Recently named in Fast Company’s 10 Most Innovative Space Companies of 2023, Epsilon3’s software delivers the ground team and our customers a full-scale systematic approach towards complex operations.   

With safety at the front of mind for our customers and the community, ELA plans to utilize the platform for its integrated Launch countdown and control. The system enables effective collection and test of live operational data and then an ability to write custom conditional criteria that automatically evaluates in real-time during operational procedures to safely manage our customer’s assets on site. 

ELA plans to utilize Epsilon3 software during launch campaigns for the following benefits: 

Launch Efficiency: Epsilon3 is designed to optimize launch operations by automating several critical processes, such as launch countdown sequencing, data acquisition, and real-time telemetry analysis. This can help reduce launch delays and improve launch success rates, leading to more efficient launch campaigns. 

Safety: Epsilon3 includes advanced safety features, such as real-time anomaly detection and response capabilities, that can help mitigate potential risks during launch operations. This can help ensure the safety of both the launch crew and the surrounding environment. 

Cost Savings: Launch delays and failures can be costly, but Epsilon3’s optimization capabilities can help reduce the risk of these events. Additionally, Epsilon3’s automated processes can help reduce the need for manual intervention, which can help minimize staffing requirements and operational costs. 

Improved Customer Experience: Launch delays and failures can be frustrating for customers who have invested time and money into their payloads. By reducing the risk of these events, Epsilon3 can help improve the overall customer experience and satisfaction. 

Competitive Advantage: Using advanced software like Epsilon3 can help a commercial spaceport differentiate itself from its competitors. By offering a more efficient, safe, and cost-effective launch service, a spaceport can attract more customers and grow its business. 

We are excited to work with Epsilon3 and modernize the process of reaching space safely and efficiently. Epsilon3 helps us ensure that our systems and operators are in sync during the most critical stages of the launch process. 

ELA Joins the Space and Innovation Hub in Lot Fourteen

ELA Joins the Space and Innovation Hub in Lot Fourteen

After the three successful launches for NASA, ELA has progressed to further developing Arnhem Space Centre and establishing its new head office in Adelaide as part of Lot Fourteen in Stone & Chalk. The company hopes this move from its previous location will help it reach new heights and continue delivering world-class space launches. ELA is proud to have been part of the revitalization project at Lot Fourteen and the growth of the space hub in Adelaide, South Australia, with the move into our new head office. The move proudly creates a national presence through this opportunity, integrating space-related services and connecting with local industry governing bodies from South Australia to Northern Territory and all over Australia. The team is excited to now be able to take action and work more hands-on in order to fulfil ELA’s mission to deliver world-class launch services that support testing, launch and recovery of vehicles and payloads for all possible space orbits. ELA looks forward to taking a leading role in designing the Australian space capability.