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NASA, ELA Conduct Australia’s First Commercial Space Launch

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Australia’s first ever commercial space launch will take place the evening of Sunday 26 June 2022

Equatorial Launch Australia (ELA) the developer, owner and operator of the Arnhem Space Centre (ASC) on the Gove Peninsula in Australia’s Northern Territory announced that its client, NASA, will be conducting Australia’s first ever space launch.

Newly elected Prime Minister Anthony Albanese officially announced the launch during his visit to Darwin on Wednesday.

“It’s terrific to be here in Darwin today to declare Equatorial Launch Australia and NASA [are a] go for launch right here in the Northern Territory,” he said at a press conference.

The historic launch is also NASA’s first launch from a fully commercial spaceport and will be one of three rocket launches, with the others planned for July 4 and 12, to carry out astrophysics studies that can only be done in the Southern Hemisphere.

A contract to launch three research rockets for NASA was first announced in 2019, originally planned for 2020 but delayed due to pandemic restrictions.

Arnhem Space Centre is the world’s only multi-user commercial equatorial launch site, located 12 degrees south of the equator in the Gulf of Carpentaria and offering unique advantages for space launches. CSA is also unique in that most spaceports are federal/state facilities.

Michael Jones, Executive Chairman and Group CEO of ELA said that whilst these historic NASA launches were a huge milestone for ELA, the company was already looking to the future beyond milestone campaign.

“Having NASA as our first customer is not only a great endorsement of our spaceport, but it places us at the forefront of global commercial space and proves that through ELA and the ASC, Australia now has a Sovereign launch capability and access to space,” Mr Jones said.

“It is a tremendous honour and reward for the hard work our company has carried out in developing the ASC to have NASA launch these three missions with us”. 

“This campaign is just the start for us as we are in advance commercial discussions with nine other major rocket companies, and we hope to carry out at least two additional launches in 2022 before ramping up our launch cadence to over 50 launches per year by 2024/25,” Mr Jones said.

ELA and the Arnhem Space Centre were recently awarded their Launch Facilities Licence and the Launch Permit for the NASA campaign following a two-year evaluation by the Australian Space Agency. 

“The three NASA launches marks the end of the first stage of the development of both the ASC spaceport and ELA as a world class launch services company. We will now commence the development of Phase 2 of the ASC which includes the construction of additional larger launch pads to accommodate medium sized/larger payload rockets,” Mr Jones said.

“The geographic location, proximity to the equator and the extensive logistics services offered on the Gove/Nhulunbuy area makes the ASC very attractive to global rocket companies and allows us to provide a commercially attractive alternative to the French government’s Kourou equatorial launch site in French Guiana,” Mr Jones continued.

“The ASC offers Australian space businesses and international rocket and satellite companies a unique opportunity to launch from a site which provides cost effective access to virtually any orbit they desire,” Mr Jones said.

I really want to acknowledge the support of not only NASA, but our staff and investors, including the Northern Territory Government for their support and dedication. It is a remarkable achievement what we have done and all the more so, given we have had no Federal Government support to date. We haven’t made bold predictions in the past, we just quietly went about our work and now we are set to achieve a couple of incredible firsts in the space history of Australia,” Mr Jones said.

Space Connect reported earlier this week that ELA is preparing to welcome more than 70 NASA employees arriving from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility to support Australia’s first upcoming commercial space launch

The Three Launch Payloads

First Launch

The the 26 June launch will carry the X-ray quantum calorimeter, or XQC.

XQC will carry unique X-ray detectors, cooled to a frigid twentieth of a degree above absolute zero, to measure interstellar X-rays with unprecedented accuracy to better understand the interstellar medium and its influence on the structure and evolution of galaxies and stars.

The atmospheric observation/acquisition platform will observe the constellations Alpha Centauri A & B

Second Launch

The second launch is the Suborbital Imaging Spectrograph for the Transition Region Irradiance of Nearby Exoplanet Host Stars, or SISTINE, Scheduled for launch on July 4.

SISTINE will study how ultraviolet light from stars affects the atmospheres of planets around them, including gases thought to be signs of life.

Third Launch

The third launch, scheduled for launch on July 12, is the Dual-Channel Extreme Ultraviolet Continuum Experiment, or DEUCE.

DEUCE will measure a previously unexplored portion of their extreme ultraviolet light spectrum. These measurements are needed to model stars similar to our sun and smaller, and to understand their effects on planetary atmospheres.

Launch Mission – Background Information

The launch of the BBIX rocket will travel to over 300KMs into space.

The BBIX first stage and payload will return to earth and be recovered.

The rockets will be visible to the local community and surrounding areas from only seconds after liftoff – about 150 metres into the sky until just prior to it exiting the earth’s atmosphere.

Public viewing notice

For safety reasons, no close proximity public viewing of the rocket launching from the ASC will be possible. 

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