• A NASA sounding rocket clearing the launch tower.
    A NASA sounding rocket clearing the launch tower. NASA

Skykraft and Equatorial Launch Australia have agreed to develop a strategic relationship to improve Australia's access to space.

Skykraft, a company that spun out of UNSW Canberra, is a designer and manufacturer of small satellite (SmallSAT) constellations for a broad range of space-based services, and ELA is set to be the operator of Australia’s first commercial spaceport, located near Nhulunbuy in the NT.

"This teaming arrangement brings together space industry skills and expertise from across Australia to demonstrate the clear path to space that is available for leading Australian technology developers through launch from the Arnhem Space Centre," ELA CEO Carley Scott said. "Launching from Australia means local companies do not need to go overseas. This saves precious time and financial resources in the race to get Australian cutting-edge technology in space.

"As a UNSW Canberra spin out company, Skykraft is well positioned to build on the $20m investment into UNSW Canberra for the creation of Australia's largest spacecraft design and engineering capability. Skykraft engineers are now working at full speed toward the development of SmallSat constellations.

"Access to the Equatorial Launch Australia site will close a gap, providing confidence around efficient access to space."

In a statement, the companies said that combining Skykraft’s rapid constellation design and manufacture capability, plus ELA’s ability to tailor the launch options through their established spaceport and access to a wide selection of launch vehicles, provides Australia and the broader space community with an end-to-end solution for rapid, flexible and responsive space access.

"This Letter of Strategic Intent is a key step in the development of Australia’s ability to conceptualise, design, build, launch and operate entire satellite constellation missions from within Australia," Skykraft MD James Prior said.

"Equatorial Launch Australia’s Space Centre near Nhulunbuy in the NT is ideally positioned to access a wide variety of orbits. Skykraft requires this type of space access to achieve its aim of delivering rapid, flexible and adaptable space missions."

NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Centre/Wallops Flight Facility has previously indicated it would like to progress discussions with ELA on a temporary launch facility for sounding rockets for scientific investigations.

Four NASA sounding rockets will launch from Nhulunbuy next year.

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