The hugely significant moment will mark the space agency’s first launch from a commercial port outside the US and Australia’s first commercial space launch.
You can watch the blast-off live here by clicking this link. The stream will be available shortly before the launch at approximately 10.45 pm ACST (11:15 pm AEST) on Sunday, 26 June.
The sub-orbital space launch is the first of three set to be carried out in June and July by Equatorial Launch Australia at its Arnhem Space Centre.
More than 70 NASA staff have already travelled down under from the Wallops Flight Facility, in what will be NASA's first rocket launch from Australia since 1995, when launches were conducted from the RAAF Woomera Range Complex.
Northern Territory Chief Minister Natasha Fyles said it represented a landmark occasion for the Top End.
“NASA is adding capacity and rocketing East Arnhem Land into the global spotlight for investors — this will help our industry grow, create more jobs for locals and more opportunities for businesses to expand,” said Fyles.
The mission will see the sub-orbital ‘sounding rocket’ blast off from the launchpad carrying scientific instruments as part of NASA’s Sounding Rockets Program.
They will conduct engineering tests and astrophysics research during their brief time in sub-orbital space, which will only be between five to 20 minutes.
Spectators on the ground and those watching online will see the rocket for around ten seconds, but its total journey will take in a distance of around 300km.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said earlier that the project would bring together global and local industry to take Australia’s space sector “into a new era”.
The contract for the launch was first announced in 2019, initially planning for lift-off in 2020 but was delayed due to pandemic-related restrictions.
Earlier this month, Equatorial Launch Australia said it was “ramping up its capacity” so that over the next 18 months to two years, it will facilitate over 80 annual launches.
In October last year, the NT Labor government announced it was co-investing $5 million into the sounding rocket launch alongside private investors, including Blackfyre Holding, Paspalis Innovation Investment Fund, and a group of sophisticated investors coordinated by Greenwich Capital.
ELA’s Arnhem Space Centre has been praised for its advantageous location at just 12 degrees from the equator. This allows launch vehicles to “leverage the earth’s rotation to gain extra velocity”, ELA says, meaning payload to fuel ratios will be far cheaper.
The launch facility will initially be equipped with three launch pads for sub-orbital launches and small orbital satellite vehicles.
Among other advantages, such as sparse population and minimal air traffic, making it a prime launch location, rockets will also be able to reach not only low-Earth orbit but geosynchronous equatorial orbit, lunar orbit and deep space, ELA says.
The NT launchpad will become one of the only commercial sites in Australia, along with the Whalers Way facility in South Australia, which is on its way to approval, and the Gilmour Space Technologies Bowen Orbital Spaceport in Queensland, which is expected to facilitate commercial launches in the future.
According to the NT government, the Australian launch market is forecasted to be worth up to US$930 million over the next 10 years.
Adam is a journalist who has worked for more than 40 prestigious media brands in the UK and Australia. Since 2005, his varied career has included stints as a reporter, copy editor, feature writer and editor for publications as diverse as Fleet Street newspaper The Sunday Times, fashion bible Jones, media and marketing website Mumbrella as well as lifestyle magazines such as GQ, Woman’s Weekly, Men’s Health and Loaded. He joined Momentum Media in early 2020 and currently writes for Australian Aviation and World of Aviation.
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