The first of three Nasa rockets scheduled to launch from the Northern Territory is due to take off on Sunday night, carrying precision instruments that will give scientists new data on the evolution of the cosmos.
If all goes according to plan, the rocket will take off from the Arnhem Space Centre on the Dhupuma plateau, near Nhulunbuy, at 10.44pm local time on Sunday.
It will carry an X-ray quantum calorimeter, allowing University of Michigan scientists to measure interstallar X-rays with precision to provide new data on the structure and evolution of the cosmos.
About 75 Nasa personnel are in Arnhem Land for the launch, which is the agency’s first in Australia in 27 years and first from a commercial spaceport outside the US.
The local Yolŋu people helped build the space centre, which is owned by Equatorial Launch Australia, on their land.
They are also taking part in the launch, including retrieving rocket modules when they return to Earth.
The Gumatj Corporation chairman, Djawa Yunupingu, said the space industry could provide opportunities for the Yolŋu people.
“We want our young people to see and take up the jobs and business opportunities that come from the growth of the Arnhem Space Centre over time,” he said.
Nasa will launch the remaining two rockets from the complex on 4 July and 12 July.
Those will carry a probe to measure ultraviolet light and the structure of stars.
The Northern Territory chief minister, Natasha Fyles, said the launch would help attract global space investors to the territory, which would provide jobs.
“The launching of a rocket from Arnhem Land is an incredible milestone for Australia in establishing the Northern Territory as a launch site and an important player in space exploration,” she said.
“Working with the Gumatj people in launching the rockets into space combines one of the oldest cultures in the world with some of the most advanced technology ever.