Australia’s First Commercial Space Mission is About to Launch

Arnhem Space Centre, commercial spaceport owned by ELA (Source: ELA)

Australia’s commercial space launch company, Equatorial Launch Australia, will be sending NASA BBIX rockets over 300 km into space.

And the dates are out! Equatorial Launch Australia (ELA) will be collaborating with its first customer, NASA, in launching NASA’s BBIX rockets for three scientific space missions in June and July of 2022. The ELA-owned Arnhem Space Centre (ASC) will be hosting the three launches. Not only will Australia be witnessing its first commercial space launch, NASA will also be launching from a commercial spaceport for the first time ever in this historic event.

Situated on the Gove Peninsula in Australia’s Northern Territory, the ASC is the only space launch site on Earth that is equatorial, multi-user and commercially-owned. The fact that the ASC is located near the equator gives the port an upperhand in having unique capabilities, such as providing access to the full range of orbits and inclinations.

Hubble Telescope’s image of Alpha Centauri A (left) and Alpha Centauri B (right) (Source: NASA)

As such, the trio of rockets will be equipped with instruments to observe and study the influence of stars on the sustenance of life on a planet from an angle only possible in the Southern Hemisphere. NASA’s BBIX rocket will travel over 300 km into space, carrying onboard an atmospheric observation/sensing platform to study the Alpha Centauri A and B constellations.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Thomas Zurbuchen, stated that the launch in collaboration with ELA “opens up new access to the Southern Hemisphere’s night sky, expanding the possibilities for future science missions.” More than 70 NASA personnel have already made their way to ASC all the way from Wallops Flight Facility to support and witness the launches. The three lunches will be taking place over the next few weeks and the dates are:

  • 26 June 2022 at 10:44 PM
  • 4 July 2022 at 8:24 PM
  • 12 July 2022 at 8:27 PM

The rockets will be visible in plain sight for approximately 30 seconds after launch to the people in the local vicinity of ASC, depending on cloud cover.

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