Towns in Australia

Exploring Australia, town by town

Woomera SA


Postcode: 5720

Woomera ( 31°12’S, 136°49’E) is a town in South Australia, 488 km/305 mi. north of Adelaide, along the Stuart Highway.

The population of “Woomera Village” reached 6000 people at its peak, but is now stable at around 300. Next to the village is the Woomera Prohibited Area (WPA), a military area 127,000 square km in area; it is about the same size as England, making it the largest testing area in the world. The area has been used since the 1950s for joint Australia-United Kingdom weapons and aerospace testing (including testing of nuclear weapons). It was also home to the Nurrungar satellite ground station (31.323809° S 136.776942° E, closed in 1999 when its activities were moved to Pine Gap) which was thought to be part of the global ECHELON intelligence gathering network.

Woomera was named thus after the Aboriginal spear thrower of the same name, in recognition of the place being a launch site in much the same way the woomera launches the spear.

Although many sounding rockets were launched from Woomera, only two satellites were launched there successfully. These satellites were the British satellite Prospero in 1971 and the Australian WREsat in 1967. Nowadays most pads at Woomera are abandoned, but there are still launches of sounding rockets. The Australian Space Research Institute conducts several of these launches each year.