NASA launched a rocket from Australia for the first time in 27 years. After a series of rain and wind delays, the BBIX rocket made a short flight from Arnhem Space Center in the north of the continent to investigate the origin of X-rays in a particular area of the sky.
The region’s (often) dry climate and proximity to the equator make northern Australia very suitable for rocket launches. Two more NASA flights will launch 300 kilometers into space from the Australian base in July. They are intended to study Alpha Centauri A and B, the closest star system after the Sun, visible only from the southern hemisphere.
The rocket and its scientific payload return to Earth the same evening.
NASA is the first customer of the commercial space base operated by Equatorial Launch Australia (ELA). Seventy NASA employees traveled to the remote base for the three launches, the first since Australia since 1995, when rockets launched from the Woomera Range military complex in the south of the continent.
Michael Jones, CEO of ELA, spoke of a “historic night” for his company. Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said the project marks “a new era” for Australia’s space sector.
From New Zealand to the Moon
The US space agency has also planned a mission from New Zealand. The CAPSTONE mission consists of a mini-satellite the size of a microwave that will be placed in orbit around the moon. The device will be placed in the extremely elliptical orbit that a new small space station, the Gateway, must follow in a few years. CAPSTONE will test navigation and communications in this orbit.
Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1 is a commercial launch site on New Zealand’s North Island. The Rocket Lab company has been launching satellites into space from the complex since 2018.
The Electron rocket was scheduled to depart tomorrow, but this has been postponed as further verification is needed. Depending on the weather, a new launch date will be set. After launch, a Photon rocket stage pushes the satellite towards the Moon, but at a relatively slow speed: CAPSTONE will not arrive on Earth’s companion until four months later, probably in mid-November.
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