The government of Australia announced Monday (13 July) that it would be making substantial investments in various space technologies as part of its defence upgrades. The government said it would be investing in Australia’s first fully owned and controlled military satellite communications constellation as part of its $7 billion investment in space capabilities over the next 10 years and said in a separate announcement it would invest $87 million 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. Officials said investing in Australia’s space capabilities would expand the domestic space sector to $12 billion and create 20,000 jobs by 2030.

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 for Defence Linda Reynolds. (PHOTO: Government File Photo)

Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds said “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,” Reynolds said. “In our increasingly information-dependant warfighting domains, it will provide Australian controlled communications and assured access for the ADF and for others including Emergency Services.”

“Over the next 15 years, Defence, in cooperation with the Australian Space Agency, will invest $50 million in the Australian Space Industry for research and innovation in satellite communication technologies for future consideration,” Reynolds said.

Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Karen Andrews said it was an important investment that would support Australian industry more broadly than just the space sector. “Investments like this is in our sovereign capability have a substantial flow-on effect through our supply chains – and that means jobs for Australians,” Andrews said. “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.

Arrayed antennaes at the Naval Communication Station ‘Harold E Holt’ in Exmouth, North West Australia. (PHOTO: Government)

Meanwhile, the government also said it would $87 million 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, 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,” Reynolds said. “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. The telescope uses three large mirrors that periodically require a new coat of aluminium to maintain performance. This investment will be used to build a new mirror recoating facility and sustain the telescope through to the middle of 2025.

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