The rocket launched around midnight local time on Monday from the Arnhem Space Center on the Doboma plateau, near Nolonby, according to Equatorial Launch Australia (ELA), the developer, owner and operator of the center.
Alpha Centauri is of particular importance to Australia. It can only be seen mostly from the southern hemisphere, according to Reuters, and is one of the “indicators” of the constellation Southern Cross displayed on the country’s flag.
Monday’s event also went down in Australia’s history as the country’s first commercial space launch. This was the first of three launches, with two more scheduled for July 4 and 12. According to NASA, they will be carried out using astrophysical research, which can only be carried out in the southern hemisphere.
It was a historic evening, said Michael Jones, President and CEO of ELA Group.
“We could never have dreamed of a partner who is as supportive, experienced and professional as NASA,” Jones said in a statement. “They have been incredibly generous in helping us on this journey and we would have been a much better organization to support them.”
“Today’s launch not only puts ELA at the forefront of global commercial space launches, but also confirms that we and Australia can provide access to space, and this is just the beginning for us,” he added.
Australian National University astrophysicist Brad Tucker, who was on site to watch the launch, said the wind and rain caused some tension if the launch would last.
But after a delay of more than an hour, a riot broke out when the rocket took off.
“The last time, almost everyone ran out to watch the launch and watched it with reverence. Even after we dropped the rocket out of sight, people stood outside for a long time,” says Tucker.
Suborbital missions aim to better understand stellar systems and the existence of habitable planets, Tucker said.
NASA is the first customer for a commercial spaceport operated by ELA, and 70 of its employees have traveled to Australia for three missions.
The US space agency said the mission will study the evolution of galaxies by measuring X-rays emitted by hot gases that fill the space between stars.
Arnhem Space Center describes itself as the world’s only commercial multi-user launch site in the tropics.
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