NASA carries out ‘historic’ first rocket launch outside of US

NASA carries out 'historic' first rocket launch outside of US Image ELA

In a historic first for NASA, the organisation has carried out its first commercial spacecraft launch outside of the United States.

The launch took place in Australia’s remote Northern Territory just after midnight on June 27, with the rocket blasting off from the Arnhem Space Centre on the Dhupuma Plateau, near the township of Nhulunbuy.

The successful and historic NASA launch was announced by Equatorial Launch Australia (ELA), the developer, owner and operator of the centre.

ELA said the rocket is expected to travel more than 300 kilometres (186 miles) into space on its mission to observe the Alpha Centauri A and B constellations. The constellations are the nearest star systems to the Earth.

For Australians and those who live in the Southern Hemisphere, Alpha Centauri is special being one of the “pointers” to the Southern Cross constellation, which also appears on the Australian flag.

Monday’s event also made history for Australia as the first commercial space launch in the country. It was the first of three launches, with a further two planned for July 4 and July 12.

Michael Jones, Executive Chairman and Group CEO of ELA, told CNN it was a historic night with this the first-ever commercial launch in Australia. Three more NASA launches are planned for July 4 and 12 to carry out astrophysical studies that can only be done from the Southern Hemisphere.

Jones said in a statement: “We could never have dreamed of having such a supportive, experienced and professional partner as NASA. They have been unbelievably generous in helping us through this journey and we will be a much better organization for their support.

“Today’s launch not only puts ELA at the forefront of global commercial space launch, it also confirms that we and Australia can provide access to space and this is just the beginning for us.”

The launch was delayed by more than an hour due to the weather, with Australian National University Astrophysicist Brad Tucker, saying: “At that final time, nearly everyone ran outside to see the launch and watch in awe.

Even after we lost sight of the rocket, people stood outside for such a long time.”

NASA is ELA’s first customer, the organisation sending 70 staff to assist with the three missions that will study the evolution of galaxies by measuring X-rays produced by hot gases that fill the space between stars.

The historic launch carried out ELA on behalf of NASA is the first of possibly many, with the site being considered ideal for missions that will investigate the sky above the southern hemisphere.


 

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Written by

Peter McLaren-Kennedy

Originally from South Africa, Peter is based on the Costa Blanca and is a web reporter for the Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news. Got a news story you want to share? Then get in touch at [email protected]

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