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NASA looks to Australia for its first-ever private commercial launch site
by Paul Brinkmann
Washington DC (UPI) Jun 10, 2019


NASA is planning to sign its first-ever contract with a private commercial launch site - in Australia's remote Northern Territory.

The space agency said it needs to conduct launches of suborbital sounding rockets in that region for astrophysics science experiments.

"One of the advantages of using sounding rockets for scientific research is the mobility to go where the science is happening," said Keith Koehler, news chief at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility, where the sound rocket missions are based. "In this particular case, the observations that need to be made require launching from Australia."

Koehler said the contract would be NASA's first with a private commercial launch site. The space agency historically has conducted 20 to 30 sounding rocket launches per year, from all around the world, but previously at government or military installations. Its last sounding rocket launch from Australia in 1995 was from a military facility closer to Adelaide.

In its call for launch site providers, NASA said it intends to award the contract for three launches to a startup company, Equatorial Launch Australia or ELA, based in Melbourne.

The notice said NASA intends to issue the award on a noncompetitive basis to ELA because "ELA is the only known source that has a lease in place for the launch site and agreements in work for a landing site that will allow NASA to meet its launch schedule of July 2020."

ELA is developing the private launch facility in the island's remote Top End region. The closest major city to the launch site is Darwin.

Experiments for the launches would be spectrographs to measure light spectrums from the Alpha Centauri star system to better understand possible atmospheres around other planets, according to NASA's mission descriptions.

Another experiment, led by University of Wisconsin, would launch instruments to detect interstellar hot gas, possibly shedding light on the structure and evolution of galaxies, among other things.

Source: United Press International

Related Links
Equatorial Launch Australia
Rocket Science News at Space-Travel.Com

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New Russian Soyuz-5 launcher should conquer commercial market - Roscosmos
Moscow (Sputnik) Jun 02, 2019
The new Russian Soyuz-5 medium-lift launcher will aim at conquering the commercial market, Russian State Space Corporation Roscosmos General Director Dmitry Rogozin said on Friday. "We have some reserve of possibilities, so we aim at competing with them [the United States] in this field. Moreover, the Soyuz-5 launcher, which will be constructed here, in Samara, aims exactly at conquering the commercial market but not just at solving state tasks," Rogozin told reporters. He added that the pri ... read more

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