Friday, September 30, 2022

A Brief History of Woomera, South Australia

Woomera Test Site - Dept of Defence

In the late 1940s following World War II, Britain's long-range weapons program required a large area to serve as a test range. Areas in Canada and Wales were considered, but eventually, the vast central Australian desert was chosen as the most suitable site as it was virtually unpopulated. As a result, the Long-Range Weapons Establishment (Woomera Rocket Range) was established on April 1, 1947. The name "Woomera" was chosen because it is the Aboriginal word for spear-launcher on April 24, 1947.

The hotel is named for The European Launcher Development Organisation (ELDO). The names of the hotel's accommodation are named after the missiles and test rockets that were launched from Woomera during the era. These names include Redstone, Blue Steel, Skylark, and Black Knight.

Rocketry projects, such as Blue Steel missiles were tested at the Woomera Range. However, it is with the British & European space programmes that Woomera played its most important role. In 1957, the first Skylark sounding rocket was launched from Woomera, while the base was also used in the launching of the Black Knight re-entry test rockets. Later, the range was the test and development centre for the European Launcher Development Organisation (ELDO), which designed and built the Europa series of rockets between 1964 and 1970.

Scientists work on Australia's first satellite, WRESAT, in 1967.

Two satellites were placed into orbit from Woomera. One of these -WRESAT - was designed and built in Australia by the Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO) in South Australia. In 1967, Australia became the fourth country in the world (after USSR, USA, and France) to launch a satellite into orbit using a Redstone rocket purchased from the USA.

This was followed in 1971 by the first British satellite, Prospero, put into orbit on a Black Arrow rocket. Between 1960 and 1970 the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) from the USA operated a deep space tracking station at Island Lagoon about 25 Km south of Woomera, close to the site where the Joint Defence facility Nurrungar once operated. Until 1982, the Woomera Village was a prohibited area for visitors. The village is now an open town but is still administered by the Department of Defence.

Text source: Woomera Base Museum

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