New Delhi, Sep 25: The 'mateship' between the United States and Australia is extending further after the AUKUS security pact and cooperation in the Indo-Pacific as the two countries have unveiled plans to jointly launch rockets into space. There are chances of India being part of the expanding horizons to meet the strategic challenges of the future.
On Friday, a 27-member strong NASA team emerged from quarantine in Darwin "to begin work on a ground-breaking campaign" to launch three suborbital sounding rockets from the Arnhem Space Centre in the Northern Territory of Australia.
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.
"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," said Michael Gunner, Chief Minister of the Northern Territory.
Arnhem Space Centre is located in Nhulunbuy, the Northern Territory of Australia (Image courtesy: East Arnhem Land Tourist Association)
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.
The historic collaboration, says Australia's Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment Dan Tehan, is a big win for Australia's expanding space sector.
"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," he said today.
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.
"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," said Enrico Palermo, Head of the Australian Space Agency.
Having common goals to tackle global challenges, there's also a strong possibility of quadrilateral cooperation between Australia, India, Japan, and the United States extending into civil space activities.
Earlier this year, the Australian Space Agency and Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) had signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to increase their cooperation in civil space research and the use of outer space for peaceful purposes.
"ISRO's experience in spacecraft and systems engineering and ground stations to support space activities makes them a strategic partner for Australia as we grow our own national space capability and open doors for Australian business internationally," Palermo had said in February.
The head of the Australian Space Agency and ISRO Chairman K. Sivan had also discussed establishment of a transportable terminal in Australia to support India's Gaganyaan programme.
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