The gene encoding the Aurora-A protein kinase is located in the 20q13 breast cancer amplicon and is also overexpressed in colorectal, pancreatic and gastric tumours. Although Aurora-A may not be a bona fide oncoprotein in humans, it is a promising drug target in cancer therapy. Thus, it is surprising that so little is known of its role in normal cells. The primary function of Aurora-A is to promote bipolar spindle assembly, but the molecular details of this process remained obscure until recently. The discovery of several novel Aurora-A-binding proteins and substrates has implicated Aurora-A in centrosome maturation and separation, acentrosomal and centrosomal spindle assembly, kinetochore function, cytokinesis and in cell fate determination. Here we discuss recent advances in determining the early mitotic role of Aurora-A, with a strong emphasis on its function at the mitotic spindle poles.