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ABC News
ABC News
political reporter Dana Morse and Lauren Roberts

NASA launching three rockets from Arnhem Space Centre in the Northern Territory

ELA owns and operates the Arnhem Space Centre near Nhulunbouy.

American space agency NASA will be heading Down Under this month for a series of rocket launches in Arnhem Land.

Three rockets will be launched over a period of a month from the Arnhem Space Centre on the Dhupuma Plateau.

The government says the rockets will be used to investigate heliophysics, astrophysics and planetary science phenomena that can only be seen from the southern hemisphere.

It is the first time NASA rockets will be launched in Australia in over a quarter of a century.

The traditional owners, the Gumatj people, have been consulted over the campaign and NASA will collect and remove all spent motor cases and payloads when the launches are finished.

Industry and Science Minister Ed Husic says it marks a new era for the Australian space sector.

"This is an important milestone that will further enhance Australia's position as a launch destination," he said.

NASA will launch three rockets from Arnhem Space Centre. (ABC News: Jesse Thompson)

PM in Darwin to announce launch

Seventy-five NASA personnel will travel to Australia for the launches, planned to be held from June 26 to July 12.

On the June 26 launch, the rocket will travel more than 300km in space.

Each rocket is about 13 meters in size and will arrive in Nhulunbuy via barge.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese officially announced the launch in Darwin this morning, on his way back from his first bilateral talks in Indonesia.

Mr Albanese described the project as "really exciting", and something all Australians could be proud of.

"These three launches are important, they're for universities to do scientific research," he said.

"These rockets will go some 250km north into the sky to collect data on the physics of the sun and its relationship with the earth."

Mr Albanese made the official announcement in Darwin this morning. (ABC News: Jano Gibson)

Russell Shaw, from site operator Equatorial Launch Australia (ELA), said each rocket had a "specific mission" that could only be conducted in the Southern Hemisphere because of its climate.

"They will be looking at particular transmissions coming out of those particular planets or suns which are closest to our solar system and then the other one is around the interstellar rays," Mr Shaw said.

Mr Shaw said ELA saw the launches as the "first step" in the Arnhem Space Centre "becoming part of Australia's sovereign launch capability".

"Over the next few few years, we know that getting into space from Australia is real and it's sustainable," he said.

"We plan to further develop the Arnhem Space Centre in the next couple of years to be capable of launching more than 50 launches per annum."

Three rockets will be launched over a period of a month from the Arnhem Space Centre. (ABC News: Jesse Thompson)

Arnhem Space Centre 'very attractive' to global companies

Arnhem Space Centre is 12 degrees south of the equator on the Gulf of Carpentaria and "the only commercially-owned and run multi-user equatorial launch site in the world", according to site operator Equatorial Launch Australia (ELA).

ELA executive chairman Michael Jones said the site's geographic location, proximity to the equator and the extensive services offered nearby made the area "very attractive to global rocket companies".

"The ASC offers Australian space businesses and international rocket and satellite companies a unique opportunity to launch from a site which provides cost-effective access to virtually any orbit they desire," Mr Jones said.

Enrico Palermo, head of the Australian Space Agency, says the launch will "further cement" Australia's reputation as "a nation that global space players want to do business with".

"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," he said. 

Why we are heading to the Moon, again.
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