The Guardian • Issue #2015

Dangers of space launches

The second NASA launch from Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory.

The second NASA launch from Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory. (Photo: Equatorial Launch Australia)

A second NASA rocket was launched into space from Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory on 6th July. It follows the first NASA launch on 27th June. A third NASA rocket was launched on 12th July.

The launches happened from the newly constructed Arnhem Space Centre near Nhulunbuy. The space centre is privately owned and operated by Equatorial Launch Australia (ELA). ELA is now planning a big expansion for the spaceport.

The space centre is on the land owned by the Yolngu people.

Senior leader of the Gumatj clan and Gumatj Corporation Chairman, Djawa Yunupingu, said the launch was a new beginning for the region, creating jobs and tourism opportunities for the Yolŋu people.


A flood of celebration cannot hide the dangers from the growing numbers of rocket launch sites around the world. Tens of thousands of launches are having major impacts on Earth’s environment and a peaceful world.

Every rocket launch helps to punch a larger hole in the Earth’s ozone layer.

Making rocket fuels creates major amounts of carbon dioxide releases while rocket launch exhausts contaminate air and water, killing fish, birds and other wildlife.

Rocket fuel storage is leaking into local water supplies. A key ingredient called perchlorate severely impacts the thyroid, especially in children.

When rocket parts fall back to Earth, burning up on re-entry, they drop a toxic stew of burned electronic parts into the air and water.

Every time a rocket crash-lands or explodes, the damage is tremendous – and crashes happen regularly. A 2013 study found that rockets had been crashing, consistently since 1975, between four to ten per cent of the time, at every spaceport in the world.

Launch corporations like ELA promise lots of jobs, no environmental harm, and no military uses in order to worm their way into communities, But most launch facilities, sold to the public as civilian, are soon taken over by the military and Pentagon space missions are launched.

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