NASA’s first rocket launch from a commercial spaceport outside of the US took place on an unremarkable patch of red dirt in far-off Australia, making history in the process.
The tiny site witnessed the launch of the sub-orbital rocket early Monday morning, local time.
According to NASA, it will allow for astrophysics research that is currently only possible in the Southern Hemisphere.
Additionally, it marked the first launch in Australia in more than 25 years.
The rocket is the first of three being launched by NASA from the recently built Arnhem Space Centre on the outskirts of the Northern Territory.
It should facilitate research into how the light from a star affects the habitability of neighbouring planets.
The rocket was barely visible to onlookers for around 10 seconds before it disappeared from view.
The co-principal of Yirrkala School, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, “It occurred in the blink of an eye, but to me, it felt like it was in slow motion because the whole region just lighted up.”
Like the sounding rocket, its time in orbit was brief; after the anticipated 15 minutes, the 13-meter-long rocket returned to Earth.
However, according to the chief executive of Equatorial Launch Australia, which manages the space centre, the data obtained during that period will assist in revealing the mysteries of star constellations 430 million light-years away.
The Northern Territory’s chief minister, Natasha Fyles, called the launch “extremely proud” for Australia and said it had been done with the traditional Aboriginal owners’ permission.
Australia recently stepped up its space efforts by launching a defence organisation intended to block China and Russia’s objectives in space.
The Arnhem Space Centre is the first and only privately owned and run equatorial launch site in the world. The following launch is scheduled for July Fourth. NASA will gather all items and waste and bring them back to the US.