It had been nearly 27 years since NASA last projected a rocket from Australia. On Monday, NASA launched the first of three space missions launching from the Arnhem Space Center in the Northern Territory of Australia.
The rocket carried scientific equipment 203 miles above Earth before it parachuted back to earth.
The next scheduled launch is July 4.
NASA and partners are conducting astrophysics studies that can only be done from the Southern Hemisphere.
According to NASA, two of the three missions will focus on Alpha Centauri A and B, the two closest stars to our Sun. The stars are largely not visible from the northern hemisphere.
The third will study X-rays emanating from the interstellar medium – the clouds of gases and particles in the space between stars, NASA said.
“This commercial launch range in Australia opens up new access to the Southern Hemisphere’s night sky, expanding the possibilities for future science missions,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate.
NASA officials said its work at the Arnhem Space Center could allow it to conduct up to 100 launches a year.
Having a launch option in the Southern Hemisphere provides more opportunities for NASA.
“We’re excited to be able to launch important science missions from the Southern Hemisphere and see targets that we can’t from the United States,” said Nicky Fox, director for NASA’s Heliophysics Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C. “The launches this summer will allow us to explore how a star’s light can influence a planet’s habitability, among other things.”