NASA, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, has successfully completed its first rocket launch from a commercial space facility outside of the United States. A 13-meter rocket blasted off Monday from a site in the Australian outback.
A 13-meter sub-orbital rocket took off from the newly built Arnhem Space Centre in Australia’s Northern Territory Monday. Lift-off was delayed by about two hours because of strong winds and heavy rain.
The launch was the first of its kind in Australia in more than 25 years and the first of three scheduled NASA missions from the site.
Researchers hope the information gathered from the flights will help them understand how light from a star could affect the habitability of nearby planets. They have said that this type of study can only be carried out in the Southern Hemisphere.
The unmanned flight briefly scanned the Milky Way, measuring X-Ray emissions and analyzing the structure of stars.
Brad Tucker, an astrophysicist at the Australian National University, told Australian television that the launch is part of a project to boost the domestic space industry.
“When you build a satellite you have to go overseas to do it and so the fact that we are now seeing this build-up of launching from Australia this is, kind of, that final piece of the puzzle to having, you know, a really massive industry in this sector of space and then we see that that, kind of, the first group that says, yes, we want to do it, we want to be a part of the story is Nasa, you know, it just, kind of, gives the street cred[ibility] so to speak that you are on the right track from what you are thinking,” he said.
The Arnhem Space Center is the world’s only commercially owned equatorial launch facility.
The center is built on Aboriginal land. Tribal elders hope the project will provide jobs and opportunities for young First Nations people.
Officials said the center combines one of the “oldest cultures in the world with some of the most advanced technology ever.”
The next NASA rocket will be launched in the Northern Territory on July 4, and the third will take off on July 12.
About 75 NASA staff have travelled to northern Australia for all three launches.
Australia is working to increase its capabilities in space. This year, it announced a new defense agency that would work to counter China and Russia’s ambitions in space. Along with the United States, the two countries are reported to have tested weapons that could destroy a satellite.
The Australian Space Agency was created in July 2018 to “support the growth and transformation” of the nation’s space industry.”