NASA: First launch from commercial space centre outside of US takes off from Australia

NASA has launched a rocket from the newly-built Australian Arnhem Space Centre - the first commercial space launch in the country's history.

The event made history twice, as it was also NASA's first launch from a commercial location outside of the US.

Fierce winds had caused the countdown to be aborted a number of times, but eventually the first of three scheduled launches made it off the ground and into Earth's orbit.

The rocket is expected to travel around 200 miles in space, carrying equipment to observe Alpha Centauri constellations.

It is hoped studies will help scientists understand how a star's light can influence a planet's habitability.

Two more launches are planned for July 4 and July 12.

Michael Jones, executive chairman and group chief executive officer of Equatorial Launch Australia (ELA), said it was a historic night for the firm as it celebrated the first of many successful launches to happen at the Arnhem Space Centre.

“We are delighted to announce the successful completion of our first commercial space launch with our customer, NASA,” said Mr Jones.

“In the lead up to the launch, I was consistently asked if I was excited. I can officially now say, I’m excited. I’m excited both about the success of our launch but also for the future of ELA and the Australian space industry.

“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.

“Today’s launch not only puts ELA at the forefront of global commercial space launch, it also confirms that we and Australia can provide access to space and this is just the beginning for us.

“It is a tremendous honour to celebrate the success of this milestone launch with NASA and everyone here at the Arnhem Space Centre will now refocus to ensure the success of the next two launches in July.

“Previously I’ve acknowledged the support of NASA, our investors, including the Northern Territory government, but tonight I’d like to take the opportunity to thank my staff and the board of ELA for making this a reality.

"Today, we have achieved a remarkable feat and made a huge mark in the history of Australia’s journey in space."

The last time that the American space agency launched from Australia was back in 1995, when a series of rockets took off from a Royal Air Force base in Southern Australia.

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