On the night of 26th of June 2022, a suborbital sounding rocket blasted off from ELA’s Arnhem Space Centre (ASC) complex. The historic launch was NASA’s first one from a fully commercial spaceport, which also happens to be the only commercially-owned and run multi-user equatorial launch site in the world.
The rocket was the first of three Black Brant IX rockets being launched from the ASC complex over the next few months, with the latter two planned for early July. Each rocket carries a unique payload tasked with observing a part of the sky that can only be seen from the Southern Hemisphere, which is a major reason why NASA chose ELA as its launch operator.
This first sounding rocket carried an X-ray Quantum Calorimeter (XQC) on an atmospheric observation and sensing platform, an experiment developed by The University of Wisconsin. Its job is to detect and measure interstellar X-rays from Alpha Centauri A and B. With this payload, NASA aims to better understand how the material between the stars influences the structure and evolution of galaxies and stars.
The rocket carried the science instrument to an altitude of 326km before descending by parachute and landing southwest of the launch site. The instrument and the motors were then recovered.
Many people gathered on launch day for the momentous occasion. Witnessing the launch at the Arnhem Space Centre were the Chief Minister Natasha Fyles, Consul General of the United States Kathleen Lively, senior members of the Australian Space Agency and the space industry, Traditional Owners, the Northern Territory Government, stakeholders and supporters of ELA.
Michael Jones, Executive Chairman and Group CEO of ELA, was delighted to announce the successful completion of the company’s first commercial space launch with NASA.
“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 organisation for their support,” he acknowledged.
“Today, we have achieved a remarkable feat and made a huge mark in the history of Australia’s journey in space,” Mr Jones added.