One giant leap for Australia’s space sector

  • Joint media release with:
  • Senator Dr Sam McMahon, Senator for Northern Territory
24 September 2021

The Morrison Government’s $700 million investment in the civil space sector is supporting new jobs, investment and innovation, as part of its plan to grow the sector to $12 billion and add another 20,000 jobs by 2030.

Today a 27-strong NASA team emerged from quarantine in Darwin to begin work on a ground-breaking campaign to launch three sub-orbital sounding rockets from the Arnhem Space Centre in the Northern Territory.

The team will spend the next six weeks in Nhulunbuy working with Equatorial Launch Australia (ELA) preparing for the mid-2022 launches.

It will be the first time NASA will undertake a launch from a commercial facility outside of the United States.

It will also be the first NASA launch in Australia since 1995, when six sounding rockets were launched from the Australian Government run Woomera Instrument Range in South Australia.

Senator for Northern Territory Sam McMahon said this exciting opportunity would create new and innovative jobs for Territorians.

“The Morrison Government is working hard to expand our commercial space sector, and this means more jobs for Territorians,” Ms McMahon said.

“That NASA has chosen a Northern Territory company to partner with for this historic campaign is a testament to our ingenuity and expanding capability in a sector with incredible growth potential.”

“The people of Arnhem Land especially the Gumatj should be congratulated for having the foresight to recognise this opportunity. I hope they see the benefits of this through jobs.”

Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment Dan Tehan said the historic collaboration was a big win for Australia’s expanding space sector.

“We’ve been working with governments, businesses and the sector to ensure Australia is best placed to take advantage of the growing opportunities in space,” Mr Tehan said.

“The Morrison Government is committed to expanding the civil space sector as part of its plan to grow the sector to $12 billion and create the jobs of the future.”

During next year’s campaign, NASA will launch three two-stage Black Bant IX sounding rockets carrying scientific instruments into space. 

The purpose of the missions is to conduct astrophysics research and provide scientists the opportunity to observe astronomical objects that cannot be observed from Northern Hemisphere rocket ranges used by NASA.

Quotes attributable to Enrico Palermo, Head of the Australian Space Agency

“This is the first time NASA is undertaking a launch at a commercial facility outside of the USA – and the fact they’ve picked Australia reflects the momentum we are currently seeing in our local space sector.

“Access to space is one of the priority areas outlined in the Australian Civil Space Strategy, with the Australian Space Agency committed to supporting launch activities that encourage industry growth.

“We are passionate about growing a thriving space industry – one that can open doors for our national space sector to launch technologies from home and attract greater investment from international launch customers.

“This collaboration between NASA and ELA will encourage new opportunities for the national space sector as well as adjacent industries now and into the future.”

Quotes attributable to Austrade CEO Xavier Simonet

Australian Trade and Investment Commission (Austrade) CEO Xavier Simonet welcomed the historic mission as another exciting step forward for Australia’s growing commercial space launch sector.

“Austrade has worked with Equatorial Launch Australia (ELA) since it was established in 2015.

“We’ve featured ELA in a number of space capability showcases including in-person and virtual symposiums in 2019 and 2020 and most recently, a state and territory roadshow promoting the UK-Australia Space Bridge.

“Austrade is very supportive of this ground-breaking collaboration between ELA and NASA which demonstrates how much Australia has to offer the global space economy, particularly with launch facilities.

“With launch costs diminishing and technological developments that have miniaturised space payloads, investment in launch vehicles and technologies has increased dramatically.

“The demand for commercial space port infrastructure and launch services is set to outstrip supply as early as 2025. Australia has a great opportunity to further develop its own sovereign capabilities to support the nation’s unique economic, industrial, domestic and national security interests.

“As Australia’s leading trade and investment agency, Austrade will continue to leverage its global network to assist with space investment attraction and to promote Australian capabilities abroad.”

Quotes attributable to Chief Minister of the Northern Territory Michael Gunner

“We’re going to give the NASA team a warm Territory welcome, and we’re very excited to see the world’s most famous scientists meet the world’s oldest continuous living culture.

“NASA will add capacity and blast Arnhem Land into the spotlight for investors - growing our industry and creating more jobs for Territorians.

“We will continue to work with NASA and Equatorial Launch Australia to see this incredible project make history - the first ever launch by NASA at a commercial site outside the USA. 

“We are Australia’s comeback capital, and this exciting launch is yet another major jobs boost for our economic rebound from the coronavirus crisis.”

Quotes attributable to Dr. Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for science at NASA Headquarters

“This collaborative effort is a huge win for NASA, the Australian Space Agency and space exploration in general. It is both a return to launch for Australia and the first time NASA will launch from a non-US commercial launch pad.

“Launching from Australia is critical in enabling access to our mission targets which are not visible from the northern hemisphere. We appreciate the support from the Australian Space Agency and the local community and are looking forward to not only the science but a sustained partnership."

Media enquiries