A rocket launches from the Kennedy Space Center
A rocket launches from the Kennedy Space Center

NASA confirms its Territory ambitions

NASA has confirmed East Arnhem land is firmly in its sites for their Australia sounding rocket campaign scheduled for launch in 2019.

Chief Minister Michael Gunner met NASA officials in Washington DC on Friday and was told they would be pursuing the use of the site, 40km from Gove, once they have worked through security issues. "They need some certainty about security and how it will work with Australia," Mr Gunner said.

"But NASA recognises the site and wants it to be part of their program."

Equatorial Launch Australia is putting together the satellite launching facility.

The road to the Arnhem Land space base
The road to the Arnhem Land space base

The economic benefit of the project to the region could be more than $100 million, with the potential to create about 35 jobs during the construction period and 32 full-time equivalent jobs once operational.

ELA has secured a sublease for the launch site from the Gumatj Corporation paving the way for the launch site infrastructure development.

It is still to go through the environmental approval processes. NASA's verbal confirmation reinforces plans outlined in its 2017 sounding rocket annual report.

"Once the crews return home from the GC in early spring 2019, preparations will be under way for the 2019 Australia Sounding Rocket Campaign scheduled for the Fall (September/October) 2019," the report said.

"SRPO has recently decided to pursue the option of using the newly emerging launch site known as (ELA) located in Australia's Northern Territory.

"Two major developments over the past year have lead to the decision to use ELA. Recently completed safety studies have verified that typical Astrophysics missions can be safely launched and recovered from the land portion of the 'Range' which is sparsely populated. We also hope this decision will open the door for higher performance missions in the future to provide more time aloft for the researchers.

"This will be a mobile campaign in every sense of the word and it will take the best of SRPO, NSROC, and the Wallops Range to make this campaign a reality. Many of the innovations being implemented in the preceding campaigns are coming together to make Australia 2019 a reality."