CSIRO has been selected to provide maintenance and operational support for the European Space Agency’s (ESA) deep space tracking station based at New Norcia, 130 kilometres north-east of Perth.
It's the first time an Australian organisation has been tasked with managing day-to-day operations at a ground station. The station provides tracking support to scientific and interplanetary missions by other international space agencies.
The contract is due to start on 1 June 2019, with a three-month handover from the current contractor to start in March.
The ESA control centre in Darmstadt, Germany will continue to remotely control its spacecraft via the station.
CSIRO chief executive Dr Larry Marshall welcomed the new relationship with ESA.
“This will see us further support humanity’s exploration of our vast solar system and help to build up more data and knowledge to inform our understanding of the universe,” Dr Marshall said.
“It builds on our 75-year history of space science and demonstrates our ongoing commitment to growing Australia’s space industry, inspiring the next generation of scientists and driving innovation through global partnerships."
Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Karen Andrews noted that the decision demonstrated Australia's strengths in contributing to global space activities.
"Since 1979, Australia and ESA have had treaties in place to enable European Space Agency ground stations on Australian soil to track spacecraft and interplanetary missions and Australia has unique view of the southern hemisphere sky that provides us with a natural advantage for viewing the universe," said Minister Andrews.
"The facility at New Norcia has been in operation since 2003 and now, for the first time, an Australian organisation will provide critical maintenance and operational support at the station."
The station also provides critical tracking services for Ariane, Soyuz and Vega launchers that take off from Europe's Spaceport at Kourou, French Guiana.
Receive the latest developments and updates on Australia’s space industry direct to your inbox. Subscribe today to Space Connect here.