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Arnhem Space Centre launches midnight rocket in the red dirt

Adelaide Lang and Madeleine Achenza, June 27, 2022 6:30PM Kids News

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US space agency NASA has launched a commercial rocket from the Arnhem Space Centre in the BT. Picture: Equatorial Launch Australia (ELA) media_cameraUS space agency NASA has launched a commercial rocket from the Arnhem Space Centre in the BT. Picture: Equatorial Launch Australia (ELA)


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In a first for Australia, US space agency NASA has launched a commercial rocket from a remote area of the Northern Territory.

The rocket launched from the Arnhem Space Centre near Nhulunbuy, on the lands of the Gumatj people who were consulted throughout the process.

media_cameraPoor weather conditions delayed the launch on Sunday night. Picture: US Embassy

Weather conditions delayed Sunday night’s launch for about an hour as wind, rain and clouds arrived at the launch site.

“We had a few delays because of the weather but when it finally went you felt the shock of the rocket as it left and the noise was pretty impressive,” Arnhem Space Centre chief executive Michael Jones told the Today show on Monday morning.

“We went through the full weather spectrum* last night, we had heavy rain and cloud,” he said. “It would put some risk into what the launch angles will be so we just had to make sure it was safe.”

media_cameraAfter heavy rain and cloud, the rocket successfully launched just after midnight. Picture: Equatorial Launch Australia (ELA)

The rocket finally launched from the red dirt just after midnight, but was only visible for 10 seconds before it disappeared into the Earth’s atmosphere.

About 100 VIPs* watched the historic moment from a viewing platform 800m away, including scientists, politicians, local community members, Indigenous leaders and the media.

The 13m “sounding rocket” carried an atmospheric* observation platform to examine the Alpha A and B constellations*. The rocket travelled about 300km during the 15 minutes it moved through space.

media_cameraKIDS NEWS: The new Arnhem Space Centre in the NT will be the launch site for three NASA rockets lifting off in June and July, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese confirmed on Wednesday. Picture: Abi Fraser

“Without getting too deep into the science, it was effectively a large X-ray camera looking at various astronomical* phenomenon* and trying to capture parts of boulders in the Milky Way and particularly the star cluster of Alpha Centauri,” Mr Jones said.

It was the first time the internationally renowned* space agency has launched a rocket from a commercial port outside the USA.

The rocket was also the first to leave Australian soil in 26 years, since the 1995 launches from the Royal Australian Air Force Woomera Range Complex.

media_cameraThe Arnhem Space Centre is on the lands of the Gumatj people, who were consulted throughout the process and whose leaders attended the launch. Picture: file image

The rocket was the first of three NASA-designed rockets to be launched from the remote NT space centre, which will not enter orbit but instead collect valuable scientific information into the physics of the sun, astrophysics*, and the type of planetary science that can only be conducted in the southern hemisphere.

The second and third rockets are scheduled to launch on July 4 and 12.


  • spectrum: range, variety, array
  • VIPs: very important people
  • atmospheric: relating to the atmosphere
  • constellations: any group of stars with a name that looks like a particular shape in the sky
  • renowned: famous for something, respected, very well regarded
  • astronomical: relating to astronomy, the study of the sun, moon, stars and planets in space
  • phenomenon: something that exists and can be seen or experienced, especially unusual, interesting things
  • astrophysics: space science applying laws of physics and chemistry to understand the universe


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  1. The Arnhem Space Centre is on whose land?
  2. How long was the rocket visible after launch?
  3. What was the rocket carrying and for what purpose?
  4. How far did the rocket travel and for how long?
  5. How many years has it been since a rocket was launched from Australia?



1. NASA rocket launch in Australia
Would you like to witness one of these rocket launches at the Arnhem Space Centre? What would it look, feel and sound like?




Time: allow 15 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English; Science; Critical and Creative Thinking

2. Extension
Why do you think NASA and the Australian Government chose Arnhem Land to be the site of the new space centre and recent rocket launch?

Time: allow 10 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English; Science; HASS, Critical and Creative Thinking

To sum it up
After reading the article, use your comprehension skills to summarise in a maximum of three sentences what the article is about.

Think about:

What is the main topic or idea?

What is an important or interesting fact?

Who was involved (people or places)?

Use your VCOP skills to re-read your summary to make sure it is clear, specific and well punctuated.

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