According to Equatorial Launch Australia (ELA), the center’s developer, owner and operator, the rocket exploded at the Arnhem Space Center on the Dhupuma Plateau near the town of Nhulunbuy no later than midnight local time on Monday.
Alpha Centauri has a special meaning for Australia. It is mostly visible only from the Southern Hemisphere, and according to Reuters, is one of the “indicators” of the Southern Cross, which appears on the country’s flag.
Monday’s incident also went down in history as the launch of Australia’s first commercial space in the country. This was the first of three releases, two more are scheduled for July 4 and 12. According to NASA, they will conduct astrophysical studies that can only be done in the Southern Hemisphere.
ELA CEO and CEO Michael Jones said it was a historic night.
“We could never have imagined having a supportive, experienced and professional partner like NASA. They have been incredibly generous in helping us on this journey, and we will be a better organization to support them,” Jones said in a statement.
“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.
Brad Tucker, an astrophysicist at the Australian National University, who was on the scene to watch the shooting, said in advance that wind and rain had caused some nervousness as to whether it would continue.
However, more than an hour later, there was an alarm as the rocket took off.
“At that last moment, almost everyone ran outside to watch the broadcast and watch with admiration. Even after the rocket came out of sight, people stood outside for a long time,” Tucker said.
Tucker said suborbital missions aim to better understand stellar systems and whether there are suitable planets to live there.
NASA is the first customer of the ELA-operated spaceport, and its 70 employees have traveled to Australia for three missions.
The US space agency says the mission will study the evolution of galaxies by measuring X-rays produced by hot gases that fill the space between stars.
The Arnhem Space Center describes itself as the world’s only commercially owned and operated multi-user equatorial launch site.
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