NASA’s first rocket launch from a commercial spaceport outside of the US took place on an unremarkable patch of red dirt in far-off Australia, making history in the process.
Early on Monday local time, the tiny site saw the launch of the sub-orbital rocket.
According to NASA, it will allow for astrophysics research that is currently only possible in the Southern Hemisphere.
Additionally, it marked the first launch in Australia in more than 25 years.
From the recently built Arnhem Space Centre on the outskirts of the Northern Territory, the rocket is the first of three being launched by NASA.
It should facilitate research into how the light from a star affects the habitability of neighboring planets.
The rocket was barely visible to onlookers for around 10 seconds before it disappeared from view.
Merrkiyawuy Ganambarr-Stubbs, co-principal of Yirrkala School, said to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, “It occurred in the blink of an eye, but to me, it felt like it was in slow motion because the whole region just lighted up.”
“It rose, followed by an unfamiliar sound that I can only describe as a rumbling boom. And I couldn’t help but shake in awe.”
Similar to the sounding rocket, its time in orbit was brief; after the anticipated 15 minutes, the 13-meter-long rocket returned to Earth.
However, according to the chief executive of Equatorial Launch Australia, which manages the space center, the data obtained during that period will assist reveal the mysteries of star constellations 430 million light-years distant.
Without delving too far into the science, Michael Jones told the local network Nine that the device was essentially a big X-ray camera that was seeking to photograph fragments of rocks in the Milky Way and, in particular, the star cluster of Alpha Centauri.
Natasha Fyles, the chief minister of the Northern Territory, described the launch as “very proud” for Australia and noted that it had taken place with the consent of the area’s Aboriginal traditional owners.
Young Territorians can look up into the sky here in Yolngu country and know what can be done, Ms. Fyles remarked.
“It’s something we can all think about and feel very pleased about when we have the oldest living civilization mixing with space science as we have here.”
Australia recently increased its space efforts by announcing a defense agency aimed at thwarting the aspirations of China and Russia in space.
The world’s first and only equatorial launch facility that is privately owned and operated is the Arnhem Space Centre.
In a statement, Mr. Jones stated, “We have accomplished a tremendous feat and made a huge mark in the history of Australia’s voyage in space.”
“This is just the beginning for us,” he said, “and [it] confirms that we and Australia can provide access to space.”
On July 4th, the following launch is anticipated.
All materials and debris will be collected by NASA and returned to the US.