NASA picks the Northern Territory for world-first launch

Arnhem Space Centre in the Northern Territory will become the first privately-owned site outside the US to launch NASA rockets, marking a world-first deal.

The private Australian spaceport located near Nhulunbuy is expected to be ready to launch small rockets by year-end before the first spaceflights begin in 2020.

Calling the agreement the “single most important event to date” in putting the Australian space industry on the global map, Equatorial Launch Australia chief executive Carley Scott said the deal will bring “unprecedented growth in the space sector in Australia”.

“We’ve been pioneering in the area and it’s been a lot of hard work to date so when the world’s best are prepared to work with us, it’s a great endorsement,” she said.

NASA will use the site to launch sounding rockets, which stand about 15 metres high and spend about 15 minutes in suborbital space to conduct engineering tests and collect scientific data.

Scott said the launch date next year is “something we’ll have to work hard to achieve”.

The news follows the federal government’s recently established space agency which will be located in South Australia.