Australia’s First Commercial Space Launch: Fast Facts

  • Equatorial Launch Australia (ELA) launched Australia’s first ever commercial space launch for NASA from its Arnhem Space Centre (ASC) in June 2022.
  • The ASC is owned and operated by ELA and is the only commercially owned and run multi-user equatorial launch site in the world.
  • Over the next 18 months to 2 years the ASC will ramp up to be capable of launching more than 50 launches a year.

About the Arnhem Space Centre

  • ASC is located at 12° S on the elevated Dhupuma Plateau in the Northern Territory, 20 kilometres by road from the Gove commercial airport and 35 kilometres south of Nhulunbuy township.
  • Located at 12 deg south of the equator, the ASC offers access to the full range of orbits and inclinations as well as mission payload and launch management efficiencies. The site offers launch clients excellent weather and stable upper atmospheric conditions; low aviation and maritime traffic, a stable geo-political environment and comprehensive logistics infrastructure as well as.

About ELA

  • Founded in 2015, ELA’s aim is to be the pre-eminent multi-user commercial Space Launch company in the world.
  • ELA provides world-class space launch services supporting testing, launch and recovery of space vehicles and payloads flown to and from all space orbits.
  • ELA’s team are trusted leaders in the development and space industry in Australia and the United States.
  • ELA has strong relationships with the Traditional Owners of the land where the ASC is located. Local contractors, including the Gumatj Corporation, have undertakien a significant proportion of the works for the construction of the facility.  
  • ELA is developing with local school and Australian universities a STEM Engagement program which will deliver tools for students and educators to build a diverse future STEM and space oriented workforce

The First Launch: NASA

  • The first of three NASA launches in this campaign took place in the late evening of 26th June 2022 and the rocket was visible to the local community immediately after lift off.
  • For safety reason no public viewing of the remaining rockets launching from the ASC for close proximity will be possible.
  • The three NASA Black Brant IX rocket launches/missions are for scientific experimental purposes for the Universities of Colorado and Wisconsin.
  • The first mission was the X-ray Quatum Calorimeter or XQC, from the University of Wisonsin. The night sky glows with X-ray light coming from all directions. Much of this X-ray light is produced by the interstellar medium, which includes hot gases filling the space between the stars. The unique X-ray detectors on this mission, cooled to a frigid one-twentieth of a degree above absolute zero, measured the arriving X-rays with unprecedented precision to better understand the interstellar medium and its influence on the structure and evolution of galaxies and stars.
  • About 60 NASA personnel have travelled from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility to support the campaign. An additional 15 science team members arrived at the Arnhem Space Centre in June.
  • This campaign will be the first a NASA rocket launches from Australia since 1995, when launches were conducted from the Royal Australian Air Force Woomera Range Complex.
  • The second mission is for Suborbital Imaging Spectrograph for Transition region Irradiance from Nearby Exoplanet host stars, or SISTINE, from the University of Colorado Boulder. Targeted for launch on July 4, SISTINE will study how ultraviolet light from stars affects the atmospheres of the planets around them, including the gases thought to be signs of life.
  • The third mission, targeted to launch on July 12, is the Dual-channel Extreme Ultraviolet Continuum Experiment, or DEUCE, also from the University of Colorado Boulder. DEUCE will measure a so-far unstudied part of their extreme ultraviolet light spectrum. These measurements are needed to model stars similar to and smaller than our Sun, as well as understand their effects on planetary atmospheres.

FAQs

Will the public be able to see anything when the rockets launch?

While you won’t be able to access the launch site – you will be able to see them from just after lift-off to just as the start to enter space. The rockets will be visible from many kilometres from the launch site.

Can the public see the rocket taking off from the launch pad?

No, due to safety requirements, there will be no public access to the launch site. However, you will be able to see the rockets from seconds after ignition as they veery quickly gain altitude.

Can the public visit the Arnhem Space Centre?

No, the public cannot visit the ASC.

Where do the rockets land and what impact will they have on the environment?

There are two parts that will land – the payload that will parachute to the ground causing no impact and the booster that will land within 15km down range from the launch site, within the safe zone. All parts of the rocket will be collected immediately after the launch.