Arnhem Space Centre. Source Equatorial Launch Australia, Fair Use, Low Resolution Image to Identify the Subject

NASA Launch: Australia Joins the Commercial Space Race

Essay by Eric Worrall

Australia’s first ever commercial space launch, from our near Equatorial Arnhem Space Centre, will occur 10.44pm ACST (06:14am Sunday California Time).

NASA to launch rocket from Arnhem Land tonight

By Emily McPherson • Senior Journalist 8:17am Jun 26, 2022

History is in the making with American space agency NASA set to launch a rocket into the skies above east Arnhem Land tonight.

It is the first time since 1995 that a rocket will take off from Australian soil and the first time for NASA launching a commercial rocket.

NASA’s rocket will take off from the red dirt at the Arnhem Space Centre outside Nhulunbuy about 10.44pm local time tonight.

The space centre is privately owned and operated by Equatorial Launch Australia (ELA).

Read more (includes video):

Details about how to watch a live stream are available here. The payload will be atmospheric sensors, according to the press release.

The lack of development of Australia’s space facilities is a continued source of puzzlement to me.

Australia’s political stability, skilled workforce, resources and availability of vast, inexpensive tracts of advantageous near equatorial mainland launch locations, 12° South in this case, should have made Australia a Mecca for commercial space launch. Yet the last Aussie orbital launch of any description was in 1995.

Hopefully Equatorial Space Launch will fix all that.

Update (EW): Youtube livestream of the launch

Correction (EW): Looks like the payload is an X-ray Astronomy instrument, going by the video feed…

Update (EW): To see T-10 to successful launch click here – the launch camera and rocket exhaust fireball provides a good glimpse of the clouds which were delaying the launch as the rocket soars through them.

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Bloke down the pub
June 26, 2022 2:18 am

Probably doesn’t count as a commercial launch but the British Black Arrow rocket would’ve been well suited to todays smallsat requirements.It last launched from Woomera Australia in 1971, a bit ahead of NASA.

Reply to  Bloke down the pub
June 26, 2022 2:41 am

“It is the first time since 1995 that a rocket will take off from Australian soil and the first time for NASA launching a commercial rocket.”

I am not sure what NASA commercial rocket is, but NASA hasn’t done them and don’t really understand how they can legally do them. But NASA probably has to call it that to launch from country that isn’t the US.

Michael ElliottMichael Elliott
Reply to  gbaikie
June 26, 2022 3:17 am

I can recall the then Premier of Queensland Bejelkie Peterson suggesting it long ago.

He was laughed at for such a daft idea.

Michael VK5ELL

Reply to  gbaikie
June 26, 2022 3:22 am

Oh, wiki:
“Arnhem Land is arguably one of the last areas in Australia that could be seen as a completely separate country. Many of the region’s leaders have called and continue to call for a treaty that would allow the Yolŋu to operate under their own traditional laws.”
So the launch is not governed by Aussie sovereign.
Legally it matters where rocket launch from, so this sovereign is “Arnhem Land”
So normally NASA would work with other government space agencies, but NASA dealing commercial launch company, so it “makes” NASA have a commercial rocket launch.

Reply to  gbaikie
June 26, 2022 9:52 am

From the Wiki link –

As of 2021, there are no such treaties in force.

Australian states still command sovereignty over all their lands, and the Commonwealth has ultimate sovereignty over commonwealth territories (eg NT, ACT, some offshore protectorates).

Aboriginal land rights arrangements confer a range of “traditional” usage entitlements to particular groups, but I think entering into international treaties for client-state commerce is beyond their remit.

Over the years, there have been many fringe group ‘claimants’ to ‘ownership’ of sections of Oz, (supported by the usual unhinged leftists groups of course), but all are eventually mugged by reality.

There’s a now-classic comedy movie about property rights in Australia called “The Castle”.
If you can find it on streaming, well worth a watch.

Craig from Oz
Reply to  gbaikie
June 26, 2022 10:08 pm

WikiPeePee… so it must be true.

Sorry gbaikie, but someone calling for and continuing to call for something doesn’t overrule the established law.

I could call you a billionaire and get all my mates to join in but it isn’t going to change your bank balance.

Thing to remember about Native Title in Australia is that it doesn’t mean what people think it means. The Mambo ruling that everyone likes to name drop did NOT grant title, it announced that continuous use by Aboriginals of land should be recognised in the same way that ‘squatters rights’ are legally recognised.

Sure, they are recognised, but do NOT overrule the States and Federal rights to take over the land if/when they decide it is important.

(politically it would have to be VERY important as not to cause a fuss, but they still have the right. If your State and/or Canberra really want to pull rank the question is not can they do it, but how much compensation can you expect. Start packing sunshine.

Also, if Arnhem land is a separate country, then how can pre 1788 be ‘First Nation’? First Nation AND Arnhem Land?

Sorry gbaikie, but don’t believe activists and don’t believe WikiPee articles edited by activists. CoA owns Australia. Deal with it.

Reply to  gbaikie
June 27, 2022 7:16 am

Yes it certainly looks like that part of Australia that is separated by a giant, very long fence.
Likely some British secret military bases there? A
(Edit: along with weather modification …err tracking.. stations)
Of course wiki will come up with some answer to this.:)

Reply to  gbaikie
June 26, 2022 2:31 pm

Not a commercial rocket (except in the sense that NASA purchases ALL of its launch vehicles from private companies – they don’t build any rockets themselves). I can’t find anything on who NASA purchased these sounding rockets from, but I think it would have been mentioned if the commercial launch facility that they are using also supplied the launch vehicles.

Reply to  writing observer
June 26, 2022 11:27 pm

“This commercial launch range in Australia opens up new access to the Southern Hemisphere’s night sky, expanding the possibilities for future science missions,” NASA associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate Thomas Zurbuchen said in a statement.
The 12.2-meter (40-foot), 2,200-kilogram (4,900-pound), Canadian-designed Black Brant IX rockets would focus on the Alpha Centauri A and B star systems. A third mission would study X-rays emanating from the interstellar medium — the clouds of gases and particles in the space between stars.
NASA’s Heliophysics Division director Nicky Fox said the launches more than 300 kilometers (186 miles) into space would “allow us to explore how a star’s light can influence a planet’s habitability among other things.”

Reply to  gbaikie
June 27, 2022 4:47 pm

I would never have thought to look at a site called “courthouse news.”

Thank you for identifying the launch vehicle. Canadian designed – do you know where they are built? Also in Canada?

Reply to  gbaikie
June 26, 2022 5:23 pm

SpaceX has perfroemd many commercial launches for NASA, under a program specifically requiring commercial launches.

Reply to  Retired_Engineer_Jim
June 26, 2022 10:48 pm

Yes. Even in Southern hemisphere neighbour NZ Rocket Lab is doing launches for NASA

Michael S. Kelly
Reply to  Bloke down the pub
June 26, 2022 9:15 pm

You are correct, Bloke down the pub. Australia has hosted sounding rocket (suborbital) launches from Woomera for decades, and the Black Arrow orbital rocket from 1969 to 1971. Black Arrow flew four times in that time frame, but only the last one in 1971 reached orbit. This NASA “commercial” launch was of a Black Brandt, nothing to get excited about. Australia still doesn’t have an indigenous space launch industry for launching orbital vehicles.

June 26, 2022 3:17 am

“…first time since 1995…”

I thought Australia was supposed to be going green, not sooty!

Reply to  fretslider
June 26, 2022 4:05 am

They’re gonna need Sweep to clean up, mate

Reply to  Redge
June 26, 2022 5:10 am

Glove puppets are all the rage – there’s one in the White House…

Reply to  fretslider
June 26, 2022 4:02 pm

Maybe they figure distributing ‘soot’ across the land will encourage more warming? It’s been rather cold here. 😀

June 26, 2022 3:20 am

Would sure add to the article if we knew the purpose of launching the rocket.
What’s the payload?

Right-Handed Shark
Reply to  Richard Greene
June 26, 2022 3:30 am

If only they had told us 4 sentences before the end of the article. Oh wait, they did.

Reply to  Right-Handed Shark
June 26, 2022 4:51 am

It obviously was too early to read, so I’m going back to sleep !

The Rocket will carry an atmospheric observation/sensing platform to observe the Alpha Centauri A & B constellations.”

I could not sleep well knowing the Alpha Centauri A & B constellations was in need of more observations.
I can relax now.

Giordano Milton
June 26, 2022 5:34 am

I thought Australia was going back to using horses to get around, sailing ships for international travel, and candles for light.

Dudley Horscroft
Reply to  Eric Worrall
June 26, 2022 7:06 am

What is this ACST? Australian Commercial Standard Time?

Perhaps should be CAST = Central Australia standard time?

Reply to  Dudley Horscroft
June 26, 2022 10:14 pm

From timeanddate.comWhat Is Australian Central Standard Time?Australian Central Standard Time (ACST) is a time zone in the middle of Australia. It is used in three Australian states and territoriesNew South WalesSouth Australia, and the Northern Territory
In New South Wales, it is only used in Broken Hill(Yancowinna County). 
Australian Central Standard Time shares a border with Australian Eastern Time (AET) in the east and Australian Western Standard Time (AWST) in the west. It also shares a border with Australian Central Western Standard Time(ACWST), a time zone only used in Eucla.

Reply to  Eric Worrall
June 26, 2022 7:40 am

Australian elites?

Some crooks are more equal than others!!!!

Reply to  Giordano Milton
June 26, 2022 4:03 pm

😀 We are allowed to use fire, OK? Just not burn coal or gas.

Craig from Oz
Reply to  MarkMcD
June 26, 2022 10:13 pm

We burn batteries to keep warm 😛

Craig from Oz
Reply to  Giordano Milton
June 26, 2022 9:57 pm


LUXURY! We used to dream of having candles!

June 26, 2022 9:27 am

I’m glad that the U.S. could share the incompetency agency of NASA. I’m sure that all diversity, equity, and inclusiveness goals will be met.

Reply to  Brad-DXT
June 26, 2022 10:18 am

Mainly, but not including Monty Python’s “Rule #1”.

Reply to  Mr.
June 26, 2022 10:41 am

I believe NASA’s guidelines require a higher percentage of poofters than normal.

June 26, 2022 10:27 am

I wouldn’t classify Australia as politically stability. When one person can remove the guns from the population or make the goal of the country to go completely green, that is the sign of a dictator. While it’s possible to have a good dictator, that is rarely the case. Australia could turn on a dime and decide to close down the space launch operation and set us back a few years in progress.
Not to say that the United States is much better off. Several cycles of budget cuts have set back our space goals and while we should have men walking on mars by now, we haven’t been back to the moon in years. We settled for low cost earth orbit and are pretty much confined to earth.

Reply to  Dena
June 26, 2022 12:14 pm

When one person can remove the guns from the population

Prime Minister John Howard pressured the states to adopt the gun law proposals made in a report of the 1988 National Committee on Violence as the National Firearms Agreement,[42] resulting in the non-binding National Firearms Agreement (NFA) between the Commonwealth and the States & Territories as the Constitution of Australia does not give the Commonwealth direct power to enact gun laws. In the face of some state resistance, Howard threatened to hold a nationwide referendum to alter the Constitution of Australia to give the Commonwealth constitutional power over guns.[43] The National Firearms Agreement included a ban on all semi-automatic rifles and all semi-automatic and pump-action shotguns, and a system of licensing and ownership controls.
The Howard Government held a series of public meetings to explain the proposed changes. At the first meeting, Howard wore a bullet-resistant vest, which was visible under his jacket. Many shooters were critical of this.[44][45][46] Some firearm owners applied to join the Liberal Party in an attempt to influence the government, but the party barred them from membership.[47][48] A court action by 500 shooters seeking admission to membership eventually failed in the Supreme Court of South Australia.[49]
Section 51(xxxi) of the Constitution of Australia requires ‘just terms’ (financial compensation) for property that is compulsorily acquired, so the federal government introduced the Medicare Levy Amendment Act 1996 to raise the predicted cost of A$500 million through a one-off increase in the Medicare levy. The ‘gun buy back scheme’ started on 1 October 1996 and concluded on 30 September 1997. The Australian National Audit Office reported that the scheme compulsorily acquired more than 640,000 firearms, many of which were semi-automatic rifles and shotguns (restricted as a result of the 1996 legislative changes) or old, antique and dysfunctional firearms.[50]

Reply to  Mr.
June 26, 2022 4:07 pm

You forgot to mention the false flag event in Port Arthur. April 1996. Convenient shooting is convenient!

Reply to  MarkMcD
June 26, 2022 4:32 pm


Reply to  Mr.
June 26, 2022 5:48 pm

The buy back and laws seemed to have worked. How many mass shootings since? Good to see the US now has some control (or is at least trying)over who can buy the “crazy guns.”

Reply to  Simon
June 26, 2022 6:11 pm

PM John Howard made a rational case to the citizens and state governments.
He was clear, logical and consultative in the case for removal of, and open access to, auto and semi-auto firearms from members of the general public.
Also, a quite acceptable $$ offer to owners to buy back their auto & semi-auto firearms.
He garnered the public’s support overwhelmingly.

I contrast Howard’s handling of the firearms limitations challenge with the efforts attempted in the USA.
(and Canada at the moment).

The politicians there just don’t want to put in the efforts necessary to convince the population – they just want to hand down some cobbled-up new restrictive laws.
A lazy, easy, unimaginative approach, in my opinion.
Deserving of failure.

Reply to  Simon
June 26, 2022 6:20 pm

Truth, there.

Other questions, though:

How many people dragged off to CoViD Gulags?

How many people beaten with impunity for simply marching in the streets against the lock downs?

How many people will be killed when the protests start about no electricity, or fuel, or food?

It’s taken longer than I thought it would – apparently Australian politicians were more decent at base than thugs like Trudeau – but the freedoms are fast disappearing, leaving a nation that will be one huge Botany Bay.

Reply to  writing observer
June 26, 2022 8:30 pm

That was primarily in the State of Victoria, City of Melbourne.

The lockdowns and restrictions, vaccine mandates, interstate border closures, etc., were State Parliament legislation based Emergency Powers enforced by State Health, State Police Forces.

Reply to  Mr.
June 26, 2022 8:28 pm

And contrary to the beliefs of many from other lands Australians still have guns, gun clubs, gun and ammunition shops, shooting ranges all around the nation.

Obtain a gun licence from police and register guns owned by licensed shooters.

Reply to  Dennis
June 26, 2022 10:50 pm

You cant tell the mentally incapable actual facts when they want a ideological view.

June 26, 2022 2:29 pm

“Award-winning journalist.” Right… The important details:

1) This is not a commercial rocket – it is a launch from a commercial facility. Definitely a NASA payload – I can’t find for certain whether it is a launch vehicle purchased by NASA, but likely it is.

2) One is an X-ray instrument, two more launches are for instruments to study Alpha Centauri A and B.

3) These are suborbital “sounding” rockets, not even orbital.

Reply to  writing observer
June 26, 2022 4:09 pm

It’s a start. The money might just be enough to get things ticking along so we can build a better facility and maybe light the spark for some young folk to get into STEM fields.

Reply to  Eric Worrall
June 26, 2022 6:39 pm

@Eric – don’t take me wrong, there. I’m glad that another country is stepping up to provide launch facilities that aren’t under the thumb of the US bureaucracy. (Which is being weaponized against Elon Musk for not following the narrative as I write.)

Australia (northern) is a wonderful place for launching equatorial missions. I wish them every success in the future.

Reply to  writing observer
June 26, 2022 6:58 pm

I’m glad that another country is stepping up to provide launch facilities that aren’t under the thumb of the US bureaucracy. “

Australia is under the thumb of the US, so I suspect that the launch facilities are doing exactly what the US wants.

Reply to  RoHa
June 26, 2022 8:36 pm

The Commonwealth of Australia and the United States of America have much in common including being multi-national nations.

Mutual defence support has long been practised spanning back 150 years or so, there are a number of treaties and agreements on defence and including other allied nations joining. Five Eyes Intelligence Alliance since WW2 (UK, US, Canada, NZ and Australia), ANZUS (Australia, New Zealand and United States), Quad (India, Japan, Australia, United States), AUKUS being the latest (Australia, UK and US) signed in 2020 which includes Australia being included in the top secret nuclear propulsion technology for submarines closely guarded by the US and UK.

The US and UK are the top two foreign investment sources in Australia.

Craig from Oz
Reply to  Dennis
June 27, 2022 1:56 am

150 years?

So… 1870?

Just asking 🙂

Reply to  Craig from Oz
June 27, 2022 7:46 pm
Brazos Valley Chuck
Reply to  Eric Worrall
June 28, 2022 7:24 am

I’m curious about the logistical capabilities of the region – roads, support facilities, personnel etc…

How easy is it to do launches there?

June 26, 2022 6:39 pm

Howzat, cobber?

Gordon A. Dressler
June 26, 2022 9:47 pm

Is there such a thing as the “Commercial Space Race”?

News to me.

Reply to  Gordon A. Dressler
June 26, 2022 10:22 pm

For example, research Helium-3 and Moon soil and how several nations have been developing mining and processing technology for decades, China refer to Helium-3 as the perfect fuel.

And from space travel research and development many useful products we use have been developed.

Another way to look at it is the exploration of this planet, and now planning to research other planets including searching for sources of minerals and energy.

Gordon A. Dressler
Reply to  Dennis
June 27, 2022 8:03 am

Ahhhh . . . Dennis,

Could you please tell me how mining helium-3 from the Moon (assuming that is even remotely possible in the next 100 years) would benefit mankind?

Oh, perhaps you are referring to its possible use in a nuclear fusion reactor to generate power? Well, controlling nuclear fusion has been seriously studied by numerous, highly-qualified nuclear physicists for about the last 80 years and we are only slightly closer in ability to do such, with no clear path forward.

“Research into fusion reactors began in the 1940s, but to date, no design has produced more fusion power output than the electrical power input.”

As regards the credibility of anything (Red) China has to say . . . you’re kidding me, right?

As regards your statement ” . . . and now planning to research other planets . . .”, where have you been since the first interplanetary science mission, Mariner 2, was launched to Venus, in 1962?

“Scientific discoveries made by Mariner 2 included a slow retrograde rotation rate for Venus, hot surface temperatures and high surface pressures, a predominantly carbon dioxide atmosphere, continuous cloud cover with a top altitude of about 60 km, and no detectable magnetic field.”

Craig from Oz
June 26, 2022 10:12 pm

Australia was one of the pioneer nations when it comes to launching Satellites.

Sure the rocket was British IP, but the Satellite was Australian designed and built.

Third nation in the world to get a home built object into orbit if I remember correctly.

Now look at us. New Zealand claim more orbital launches than we do.

Once we stood with giants. Now we look up to hobbits. Sigh.

Reply to  Craig from Oz
June 26, 2022 10:25 pm

Australian Government

Following the advances in military technology of World War II, Australia and the United Kingdom formed the Anglo-Australia Joint Project in 1946. The centrepiece of the project was the establishment of a long-range weapons testing facility at Woomera. The area was declared a Prohibited Area in 1947 and the first military trial took place in December 1947.
From 1957, Woomera became a global focal point for space activity, including being chosen as the launch point for the European Launcher Development Organisation (ELDO). At the height of its space activity, Woomera had the second highest number of rocket launches in the world after NASA’s facilities at Cape Canaveral in Florida.
At its largest point, the Woomera Prohibited Area encompassed 270,000 square kilometres, more than twice its current size. The WPA today encompasses an area of 122,000 square kilometres in South Australia, about 450 kilometres north-west of Adelaide. At approximately the size of England, it remains the largest land-based test range in the Western world. While the end of the Cold War marked a dip in Defence use of the WPA, its importance for test and evaluation has steadily increased since the late 1990s.

Reply to  Dennis
June 26, 2022 10:27 pm


An icon of Australian scienceOur Parkes radio telescope, Murriyang, has been in operation for over 60 years. Thanks to regular upgrades, it continues to be at the forefront of discovery.
Just outside the town of Parkes in the central-west region of New South Wales, about 380 kilometres from Sydney, is our Parkes radio telescope. It’s one of four instruments that make up the Australia Telescope National Facility.
With a diameter of 64 metres, Parkes is one of the largest single-dish telescopes in the southern hemisphere dedicated to astronomy. It started operating in 1961, but only its basic structure has remained unchanged. The surface, control system, focus cabin, receivers, computers and cabling have all been upgraded – some parts many times – to keep the telescope at the cutting edge of radio astronomy. The telescope is now 10,000 times more sensitive than when it was first commissioned.
Research with Parkes radio telescopeIts large dish surface makes the Parkes telescope very sensitive and it is ideally suited to finding pulsars, rapidly spinning neutron stars the size of a small city. Almost half of the more than 2000 known pulsars have been found using the Parkes telescope.
The introduction of a multibeam receiver, a revolutionary instrument designed and built by CSIRO, enabled Parkes to be used for large-scale surveys of the sky. These surveys include the HI Parkes All-Sky Survey that found over 2500 new galaxies in our local region, and the Galactic All-Sky Survey that successfully mapped the hydrogen gas in our Galaxy in high detail.
Tracking spacecraft with Parkes radio telescopeWhile it is operated primarily for astronomy research, the Parkes telescope has a long history of being contracted by NASA and other international space agencies to track and receive data from spacecraft.
In 1962 it tracked the first interplanetary space mission, Mariner 2, as it flew by the planet Venus, and in July 1969 it was a prime receiving station for the Apollo 11 mission to the Moon. The fictional film ‘The Dish’ was based on the real role that the telescope played in receiving video footage of the first Moon walk by the crew of Apollo 11.
Most recently, in 2018-19 the telescope supported NASA’s Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex in receiving data from Voyager 2 as the spacecraft crossed into interstellar space.
Fast facts about Parkes radio telescope

  • The selection of the Parkes telescope site took several years and had to fulfil key technical requirements, such as a stable geology and low radio-frequency interference.
  • It took three years to design and two years to build the telescope; it was officially opened on 31 October 1961.
  • The moving part of the telescope, above the concrete tower, weighs 1000 tonnes – more than two Boeing 747 aircraft. This moving part is not fixed to the top of the tower but just sits on it.
  • The telescope only receives signals from space, but never sends them.
  • Because the large surface of the dish catches the wind like a sail, the telescope must be ‘stowed’ (pointed directly up) when the wind speed exceeds 35 kilometres an hour.
  • It can detect radio waves from seven millimetres to four metres long, and be pointed with an accuracy of better than 11 arcseconds – about the width of a finger seen 150 metres away.
  • The telescope operates twenty four hours per day, through rain and cloud.
  • About 85 per cent of all time each year is scheduled for observing. Less than five per cent of that time is lost because of high winds or equipment problems. Most of the rest of the time each year is used for maintenance and testing.
  • In 2020 local Wiradjuri elders gave the 64-metre telescope the name Murriyang, which represents the ‘Skyworld’ where a prominent creator spirit of the Wiradjuri Dreaming, Biyaami (Baiame), lives. Two smaller telescopes at CSIRO’s Parkes Observatory also received Wiradjuri names.
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