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Government commits to enhancing Australia’s sovereign space capabilities

Stephen Kuper
Government commits to enhancing Australia’s sovereign space capabilities

Defence Minister Linda Reynolds, Defence Industry Minister Melissa Price and Industry, Science and Technology Minister Karen Andrews have announced a series of capability investments to enhance Australia’s sovereign defence and space capabilities.

The announcements are part of a key boost supporting Australia's defence and space-based capabilities, announced off the back of the 2020 Defence Strategic Update and 2020 Force Structure Plan. 

The first announcement will see an $87 million investment towards improving facilities at the joint US-Australian Space Surveillance Telescope, Naval Communications Station Harold E. Holt in Exmouth, on the tip of the North West Cape in Western Australia.

During a visit to the facility in Exmouth, Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds said the significant investment would boost the Australian space industry. 


"As recently announced in the Defence Strategic Update and Force Structure Plan, this government is significantly increasing investment in Defence’s space capabilities with $7 billion being invested over the next decade. This world-leading, 360-degree telescope enables Defence to better track and identify objects and threats in space including space debris, as well as predict and avoid potential collisions," Minister Reynolds said. 

Minister Reynolds added, "Our national security, industry and population rely on satellite communications to connect businesses across the country, and around the world. This government recognises the importance of developing technologies locally to protect our space assets and offering opportunities to export these space capabilities to our allies and international partners."

Industry, Science and Technology Minister Karen Andrews explained this investment would build on the already impressive space capability that exists in Western Australia.

"Western Australia has knowledge that is in demand right around the world, including NASA, which is interested in the automation and robotic skills that have been developed and honed in our mining industry," Minister Andrews explained. 


Minister for Defence Industry and the local federal member for Durack, Melissa Price, said Defence would provide opportunities to grow the Australian space industry through its Space Domain Awareness project. 

"Defence will continue to work alongside Australian industry, including in regional Australia like right here in Exmouth, to develop world-leading technologies. Space is a truly global endeavour, and Australia is now looking to make a strong contribution to space safety and security using home-grown technologies and systems," Minister Price said.

After capturing its first images of space in April 2020, the telescope will now undergo extensive testing, and is expected to be fully operational in 2022.

The second announcement will see Australia taking the first step towards investing in Australia’s first fully owned and controlled military satellite communication constellation, as part of its $7 billion investment in space capabilities over the next 10 years. 

Minister Reynolds explained the significant investment demonstrates the Morrison government’s commitment to protecting Australia’s space assets and increasing our self reliance and resilience.

Minister Reynolds explained, "The Australian Defence Satellite Communications System project will be a critical enabler for the future operational capability of Defence, by providing real time operational and logistical information which is essential for the command and control of deployed forces."

The new future satellite communications capability will supplement, and then replace, the existing Defence satellite communications system, with a focus on supporting operations within the Indo-Pacific region.

The sovereign controlled system will be augmented by contracted commercial satellite communications and industry partners, to assure resilient communications globally for the ADF across a range of space operations.

Minister Andrews added, "Investments like this is in our sovereign capability have a substantial flow-on effect through our supply chains – and that means jobs for Australians. 

"That is what is so powerful about space. You’re creating opportunities for a broad range of industries to be involved in the projects, as well as developing technologies and capability that will support the advancement of those very same industries and beyond."

A request for tender is set to be released in late 2020 for the sovereign controlled satellite communications capability, which aims to engage a single prime contractor to deliver, upgrade and sustain the capability over its life of type.

Potential opportunities for Australian industry involvement include software development, systems integration, facilities construction, system operators, sustainment, and participation in the supply chain through manufacture and supply of sub-systems and components.

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