Australian Bases
Tracking Stations
Nurrungar Satellite Tracking Station
Joint Defense Facility Nurrungar
15 Miles NW of Island Lagoon, Woomera, South Australia
3119'25.71"S, 13646'36.88"E
Nurrungar Site Overview
ID: DF-ST-98-06078; 961201-F-0934S-004; Power Plant Foreman, Technical Sergeant William Bennett, checks the diesel fuel level of one of two 60,000 gallon tanks used to power the three generators at Joint Defense Facility Nurrungar, Australia. TSgt Bennett is assigned to the 5th Space Warning Squadron which shares responsibility for the operation of the facility with Australia's No. 1 Joint Communications Unit in the Australian interior. - Published in Airman Magazine, December 1996; Source: United States Air Force
Joint Defense Facility Nurrungar
Joint Defence Facility Nurrungar (JDFN), located on the edge of Island Lagoon, approximately 15 km south of Woomera, South Australia was a facility operated jointly by the Australian Department of Defence and the United States Air Force from 1969 through 1999. Its official area of emphasis was space-based surveillance, in particular the early detection of missile launches and nuclear detonations using U.S. Defense Support Program satellites in geostationary orbits. The name Nurrungar derives from an aboriginal term meaning "listen".Inside

Inside the fence of the large facility there are many large rooms like kitchens and secure rooms. Now the whole facility is completely empty. it has been stripped of lights, power plugs and anything that might have been useful. There are still bullet proof secure rooms in the facility. Inside the fence there is rows of barbwire, microwave beams and many other security features. There is even still a tennis court on the grounds.

Cold War uses

During the Cold War the site was crucially important to America's defenses, being at the time the only facility for providing "launch on warning" surveillance of possible ICBM launches. Not surprisingly, it was also regarded as one of the Soviets' top ten targets in the event that such an attack would actually take place.

Politically it was both a symbol of U.S.-Australian relations, and highly controversial; this was mainly due to fears that the site could prompt a nuclear attack on Australian soil, and antipathy towards the US alliance amongst the Australian political left. Political demonstrations were staged at the facility in 1989, 1991 and 1993. Despite allegations to the contrary, Australian military personnel were fully integrated into the site's operations. The public in general was not even aware of its existence until November 1970, a full year after it had been in operation (its precise location did not leak out until sometime later.)

Vietnam War

Leaked Department of Defence documents have revealed that satellites controlled by the Pine Gap and Nurrungar facilities were used to pinpoint targets for bombings in Cambodia.

Persian Gulf War

During the Persian Gulf War it managed to score a few positive publicity notes for detecting early launches of IraqiScud missile attacks; years later, a USAF assessment would emerge revealing that in fact oversights at the bases were responsible for one of the worst disasters for Coalition forces during the war, on February 26, 1991 when an Iraqi Scud missile broke up above Dhahran and fell into a warehouse housing U.S. soldiers, killing 28 and injuring more than 100.

The report found that ground operators at Nurrungar played a part in the tragedy, which the Air Force described as a "worst case combination of events"; these were in turn compounded by failures in the MIM-104 Patriot intercept system deployed near the Dhahran base itself.

Decommissioned in 1999

After September, 1999 its operations were moved to the Joint Defense Facility Pine Gap, near Alice Springs, and ownership of the premises were transferred to the Village of Woomera.

Since then the village has been seeking a new tenant for the premises; with "remaining buildings offer a combined floor space of over 5,000 square metres, and could be refurbished to support activities that take advantage of the geographic and physical attributes. The site is surrounded by a high security perimeter fence and includes a large radome structure."


  1. Catley, Bob and Mosler, David: America and Americans in Australia, Greenwood Publishing Group, 1998, pp. 36-37
  2. History of the Australian Anti-Bases Campaign Coalition
  3. Nurrungar History
  4. John Pilger, 'The Coup', in 'A Secret Country', 1989
  5. Nurrungar played fateful role in Desert Storm tragedy
  6. Nurrungar brochure site on the Woomera web site.
Retrieved from Wikipedia Joint_Defense_Facility_Nurrungar

Related Links:

  • AIAA Annual Report 2006 - Page 11 - University of Adelaide Student Branch of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics
    • On Monday morning before our drive back to Adelaide we were treated to an impromptu tour of the nearby former secret US early warning and communications facility, Nurrunga Restricted Area, by one of the ASRI members who used to work there. All sensitive material and equipment has obviously been stripped from the facility, but there is still a lot of impressive infrastructure there, notably the huge satellite communications dish shielded inside a giant golf ball shaped enclosure. Needless to say we had a great time clambering all over the expensive stuff.
'Golf Ball' and Triple Security Fence
Nurrungar security fence Credit: by quiver
Nurrungar Dome Credit: by quiver
Nurrungar Guardhouse Credit: by quiver
Nurrungar fenced plots
Apparently your favourite station at Exmouth (2148'59.37"S,114 9'55.99"E), apart from having geometrical connections with:

Pine gap: 2347'55.54"S, 13344'13.41"E
Nurrungar: 3119'25.71"S, 13646'36.88"E

also falls on a Great Circle track through the Magnetic Poles, which also includes these stations in it's network:

Exmouth: 2148'59.37"S, 114 9'55.99"E
Hong Kong: 2214'0.18"N, 11410'2.65"E
Thule US Airforce Base: 7631'51.26"N, 6842'29.16"W
Cutler Maine VLF Site: 4438'46.04"N, 6716'52.18"W
Arecibo Observatory: 1820'39.20"N, 6645'9.78"W
Tucuman Argentina: 2656'36.91"S, 6645'2.87"W
Chug Chug Atacama Desert, Chile 15km west of Chuquicamata 2215'9.72"S, 6910'52.04"W
Palmer US Antarctic Station: 6446'27.41"S, 64 3'13.33"W

and back to Exmouth. If someone started a thread on this , someone else might post some stuff about the ATSB coverup of QF72 

Island Lagoon Tracking Station
Island Lagoon, Woomera, South Australia
3122'55.52"S, 13653'14.84"E
Remains of Island Lagoon Tracking Station
Island Lagoon deep space tracking main antenna Credit: by Phang
Main Antenna area Credit: by scamb66
November 15, 2007: The remains of the DSS-41 Deep Space Network tracking station, March 2005, since cleared up.
Island Lagoon Entry Credit: by scamb66
November 15, 2007: This is the entry sign to Island Lagoon taken in March 2005. At this stage all the old building foundations were still in place, they have since been cleared with no visible sign left of anything. Don't know why they bothered out there, history destroyed. 
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