COVID-19 restrictions force NASA to delay NT rocket launch
THE Territory's space program has hit a coronavirus glitch, with the first rocket launch from the Equatorial Launch Australia site in Arnhem Land delayed until next year.
NASA and Equatorial Launch Australia (ELA) had planned to launch their sounding rocket program this year from the Arnhem Space Centre.
Work on preparing the East Arnhem Land site had been progressing smoothly, with land cleared ready for launch pads to be put down.
However, Equatorial Launch Australia chief executive Carley Scott says the plan has had to be pushed out to next year because of the Territory's coronavirus restrictions.
"We are waiting to see what happens with government regulations and the restrictions in place are things that have to be looked at," she said.
Ms Scott said there was an upside to the delay with the possibility of NASA launching more rockets than currently planned.
NASA will launch three suborbital rockets carrying scientific research equipment from the East Arnhem site during 2021.
"The countdown has now been moved until next year, but NASA has confirmed it has rescheduled its Australia campaign with Equatorial Launch Australia to 2021," Ms Scott said.
"What is really good is that the delay has given us an opportunity to look at another one or two missions … another one or two rockets in discussion with NASA to add to the existing three that we had planned.
"It might actually mean that we get more rockets up in the one campaign with NASA due to the delay."
The arrival of a space industry is expected to deliver economic spin-offs across several business sectors.
Chief Minister Michael Gunner said the Arnhem Space Centre would be a significant site in the Asia Pacific region and attract new business and investment opportunities to East Arnhem Land and the Territory.
Originally published as COVID-19 restrictions force NASA to delay NT rocket launch program