CANBERRA, Nov. 30 (Xinhua) -- Equatorial Launch Australia has leased 60 hectares of land in the Northern Territory (NT) to build a rocket base and grab a slice of the global space industry.
The company expects to start building the 3.78-million-U.S. dollar Arnhem Space Center in early 2018 and to make its first launch by the year's end once regulatory and environmental checks had been cleared.
The facility will launch so-called sounding rockets, which are up to 15 meters long and used by pharmaceutical and research companies, universities, space agencies and other organizations to collect data and conduct experiments.
Company spokesman Shannon Brown said on Thursday sounding rockets took scientific instruments and payloads "to the edge of space and have a hang time of 15 minutes in zero gravity" before returning to Earth via parachute.
"The initial observations of the greenhouse effect and the destruction of the ozone layer were made using sounding rockets," Brown told News Limited.
He said the rockets could also deploy small satellites the size of a shoebox.
The site, which belongs to the Gumatj clan on the Gove Peninsula in North East Arnhem Land, has many strategic advantages.
At 12 degrees south of the equator, it provides a more cost-effective way to reach Earth's orbit.
It was previously used by the European Space Agency in the 1970s as a tracking station.
Equatorial Launch said its customers will include private companies, weather monitoring organizations, research laboratories, universities, possibly even international space agencies such as NASA.
Brown said NASA officials had visited the site and expressed interest in using it for a potential launch in 2019.
The base, however, will be far less modest in size and operation than Cape Canaveral, home to the Kennedy Space Center in the United States.
"The pads that these rockets launch from are quite small, the size of a swimming pool," Brown said.