NASA will launch rockets into space from Australia next year after signing a world-first deal with an Aussie startup.
The world’s biggest space agency will work with Equatorial Launch Australia (ELA) to send sounding rockets into space from the Arnhem Space Centre in the Northern Territory, 700km east of Darwin, in 2020.
The Australian spaceport will become the first privately-owned site outside the United States to launch NASA rockets.
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Equatorial Launch Australia chief executive Carley Scott said Friday’s announcement was the “single most important event to date” in putting the Australian space industry on the global map.
“This will open the doors to growth and job opportunities in the Australian space industry,” Ms Scott said.
“NASA has not launched from a non-government launch site anywhere else in the world and the decision by NASA to partner with ELA firmly embeds Australia as a serious part of the global space sector.
“It’s exciting to be pioneering the development of commercial space launch services in Australia.
“It’s even more rewarding to be doing it with one of the world’s leading space agency and one synonymous with cutting-edge space exploration.”
It’s understood the US space agency plans to launch four sounding rockets from the Northern Territory site in 2020.
The rockets stand about 15 metres high and are used for engineering tests, scientific research, and collecting data from suborbital space.
Ms Scott said NASA’s choice to launch in Australia was a testament to the growing capacity of the Arnhem Space Centre.
The southern hemisphere spaceport is remote and close to the equator, allowing for more frequent launches in more directions.
“There is huge demand globally for commercial space launch sites and we have developed a spaceport with arguably the world’s best launching conditions, near the equator in the Northern Territory,” Ms Scott said.
“What this means is that we don’t think NASA will be the only organisation lining up to launch from our site and that this is just the beginning of a truly exciting industry getting off the ground here in Australia.
“Government can now look to increase investment in commercial launches, and the Australian space sector more broadly.
“The attraction of NASA by ELA is a significant indicator that Australia is ready to play an increasing role in a large global market.
“It means that the Australian Space Agency’s goal of 20,000 additional jobs and tripling the size of its industry to $12 billion is increasingly achievable.”
The global space sector is estimated to be worth more than $1 trillion by 2040.