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NASA launches first rocket from new Australian space centre

The launch was the first of three planned missions for June and July.

Aerial image of Arnhem Space Center in Northern Territory, Australia
Aerial image of Arnhem Space Center in Northern Territory, Australia
Image: NASA

NASA CARRIED OUT its first ever launch from a commercial site in Australia yesterday, as part of plans to conduct studies that can only be carried out in the Southern Hemisphere.

The launch, carried out at Arnhem Space Centre in the Australian Northern Territory, was the first of three rocket launches planned for June and July.

According to NASA, the missions are part of efforts conduct astrophysics studies which are only possible within the Southern Hemisphere.

The remaining two missions are set to take place on 4 and 12 July.

Two of the missions will focus on Alpha Centauri A and B, which are two stars of the three-star Alpha Centauri system which are the closest to our sun.

“The third will study X-rays emanating from the interstellar medium – the clouds of gases and particles in the space between stars,” said a spokesperson for NASA.

The mission was the first time NASA undertook a launch at a commercial facility outside the US and the first rocket launch in Australia since 1995.

“This commercial launch range in Australia opens up new access to the Southern Hemisphere’s night sky, expanding the possibilities for future science missions” said Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate.

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Zurbuchen said that the launch helps build on efforts taken by both NASA and Australia, including the planned launch of a lunar rover as early as 2026.

Australia’s Minister for Industry and Science, Ed Husic, said that the launches would be a “valuable” advancement for the growth of the Australian space sector.

“Australia has a proud history of scientific endeavours and international collaboration with our allies like the United States. By backing Australia’s booming space sector, we’re backing a better future for all Australians and for industry. Space strengthens our economy – including in regional areas – and creates jobs across a diverse range of skillsets,” said Husic.

NASA said that there were 75 personnel supporting the missions, with 60 arriving in late-May ahead of the launch.

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