Woomera in South Australia is an artificial town specifically designed by the Long Range Weapons Board of Administration. It was built to provide accommodation and facilities for personnel – scientists, technicians and ancillary staff. The staff came to work at an isolated experimental station which was used to test rockets, weapons and missiles.
Australia was the fourth country in the world to launch its own satellite – after USA, Russia and France. Because of the secrecy act, it used to be a ‘No Go’ town. There are no secrets now however.
Woomera is located in the South Australian desert and the average annual rainfall is only 190 mm.
The visitor leaves the Stuart Highway at Pimba, which is nothing more than a roadhouse, pub, service station and a few houses located near the railway line, and drives 6 km across the desert to Woomera.
During the 1960s Woomera had a population of over 5000 but today the population is around 120. Over the years it has changed from an important location for experimenting with rockets. At various times it has been used by the Australian armed forces, Great Britain, the US Air Force, NASA and West Germany.
Between 1969 and 1999 the Nurrungar joint US – Australian Ground Station operated in the area. It was located 19 km from Woomera and was closed to the public.
Between 1999 and 2003 it was used by the Federal Government as the Woomera Immigration Detention Centre. It housed asylum seekers who had arrived in Australia by sea.
Today Woomera township is open to the public, however while there are streets of unoccupied houses they are not allowed to be purchased. Its main appeal is the Woomera Heritage Centre and the Missile Park.
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