The Woomera Rocket Range is one of the world's largest launch sites. Officially known as the Woomera Prohibited Area (WPA), the facility covers some 127,000 sq km, which is almost exactly the size of England. Since Woomera's first missile was launched in 1949, the range has played an important role in the history of rocketry. It has been the site of guided weapons testing, space capsule launch and retrieval, sounding rocket tests, satellite launches, and tracking of early spacecraft, including the crewed spacecraft of the American Mercury program.
In broad terms, the establishment of the spaceport in 1947 marked the beginning of a joint Australia–United Kingdom agreement to develop and test guided weapons systems. More specifically, the British needed access to a launch site within the Commonwealth to test-fire the large number of missile systems planned in the postwar era. Several potential locations were identified, and the vast, sparsely populated, flat terrain of the state of South Australia was selected.