NASA rockets will lift off from the Northern Territory in the US space agency’s first launch from a commercial launchpad on foreign soil.
The launch will be used to investigate heliophysics – the nature and influence of the sun – and astrophysics and planetary science only observable from the southern hemisphere.
Three suborbital sounding rockets will ascend from the Arnhem Space Centre between June 26 and July 12 in NASA’s first Australian launch since 1995 in Woomera, South Australia.
Around 75 NASA personnel will be in Australia for the launch from the remote space centre, which is owned and operated by commercial space launch company Equatorial Launch Australia.
NASA’s clean range policy means everything involved in the launch will be removed from the site and any motor cases and payloads will be recovered and returned to the US.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese says Australia needs to continue building on the legacy of the country’s space industry.
“We can trace Australia’s celebrated connection to the space industry back to the 1950s,” he said.
“This project will bring together global and local industry to take Australia’s space sector into a new era.”
Australian Space Agency head Enrico Palermo says the launch will help expand Australia’s space sector, resulting in more local jobs.
“This is another signal that Australia is go for launch and will further cement our reputation as a nation that global space players want to do business with,” he said.
“The growth of launch related activities in Australia is helping to open up the full value chain of space activities, which will grow the sector and create new businesses and job opportunities here at home.”
The launches also extend the country’s cooperation with the US as the countries work to maintain the peaceful use of outer space, Mr Palermo said.
The announcement comes after Mr Palermo this year told an air and space conference in Canberra that Australia’s unique geography, climate and political landscape made it attractive for countries like the US to co-invest in space infrastructure.
Backup launch sites can also be stationed in Australia if allies’ facilities go down to ensure continued access to space, he told the conference.
Communications and navigation systems rely on access to the domain, as do intelligence and surveillance capabilities, banking and the internet.