NASA blasts off from Australian Outback in ‘historic’ launch
NASA’s first-ever launch from a commercial site outside the United States launched late Sunday in Australia’s Outback, marking a “historic” moment for the country’s aerospace industry.
In the first of three planned launches from the Arnhem Space Center, the rocket, using technology similar to a “mini Hubble” telescope, took off — blasted about 350 kilometers (218 miles) into the night sky.
“It’s a momentous occasion for us as a company in particular, but it’s historic for Australia,” Michael Jones, CEO of Equatorial Launch Australia, told AFP ahead of the launch.
Jones, whose company owns and operates the launch site in Australia’s far north, described it as a “coming-out” party for the country’s aerospace industry and said the opportunity to partner with NASA was a milestone for commercial space companies. in the country.
After a series of rain and wind delays, the suborbital-sounding rocket flew into the sky to study X-rays emanating from the Alpha Centauri A and B systems.
After the rocket peaked, it had to record data about the galaxies before parachuting back to Earth.
According to NASA, the launch offers a unique look at the distant systems and unlocks new possibilities for scientists.
“We’re excited to launch important science missions from the Southern Hemisphere and see targets we can’t see from the United States,” said Nicky Fox, director of NASA’s Heliophysics Division in Washington, announcing the mission. .
Jones said the unique location had made preparations arduous, with years of work getting regulatory approval and the need to tow rockets on barges to the launch site — about a 28-hour drive from Darwin in northern Australia.
“I think it will be a huge relief for the team that it’s done,” he said.
But with the next launch looming as early as July 4, the hiatus would be short-lived.
“We have to, you know, dust ourselves off, take a day off and then get back into it for the next launch, because it’s just as important.”
It is the first NASA rocket to be launched from Australia since 1995, and the project was hailed by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese as the beginning of a “new era” for the country’s aerospace industry.
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© 2022 AFP
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