A tiny spaceport in a remote stretch of Arnhem Land is set to become a new launch site for the world's biggest space agency: NASA.
The US organisation on Friday evening announced its intention to send sounding rockets into space from a site 700 kilometres east of Darwin.
"NASA's [Goddard Space Flight Centre] plans to award a contract to Equatorial Launch Australia (ELA) to provide services to NASA for a temporary southern hemisphere launch site for conducting scientific investigations," the US Government's Federal Business Opportunities website stated.
ELA said the contract would see four rockets launched at the Arnhem Land spaceport next year.
"It is big news," ELA chief Carley Scott said.
"It's really exciting for Australia, the space industry in Australia, and ourselves.
"The plan for NASA's first launches are around scientific experiments on sounding rockets, so they are smaller rockets as far as the rocket world goes."
She said it was the first time NASA had agreed to launch rockets from a non-government-owned site.
"Essentially [it's] a big tick and endorsement from the most significant space agency by … coming and looking at Australia [and] saying Australia's commercial sector is ripe to work with now."
One of the reasons NASA was keen on the site was because of Arnhem Land's unique geographical advantages, she said.
"When the space sector thinks of Arnhem Land, they really look at the fact [that] you are close to the equator.
"Facing eastward, there are low-risk profiles, so a lower population base, lower infrastructure nearby, and lower trade nearby … which means there are more opportunities to launch more often and in more directions."
The Northern Territory Government said developing an Arnhem Land spaceport would provide an economic boost for the town of Nhulunbuy.
"Arnhem Land, the most ancient of places, is now at the cutting edge of human endeavour."
The Federal Government last year chose Adelaide as the headquarters of Australia's new space agency.
Quelle: ABC News