Minister for Defence – Defence space cooperation – space situational awareness

As part of the 2012 Australia-United States Ministerial Consultations (AUSMIN) in Perth on 14 November, US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and I signed a Memorandum of Understanding regarding the establishment of a jointly-operated C-band radar space surveillance installation at the Harold E. Holt naval communication facility in Exmouth, Western Australia.
 
We also agreed our two nations would work together to progress a proposal to transfer a highly advanced space surveillance telescope to Australia. These two activities build on the Australian-United States Space Situational Awareness Partnership Statement of Principles signed at AUSMIN in Melbourne in 2010.
 
Assured access to space is increasingly important, not only for national security purposes, but also for many technologies that underpin modern economies and daily life, including stock exchange and credit card transactions, weather and climate monitoring, natural disaster warning, communications and navigation. At the same time, the increasing congestion in space from over 50 years of space activities and a significant rise in space debris present a rising threat to our assured access to space.
 
The hosting of SSA facilities in Australia will improve the overall performance of the global network of sensors forming the US Space Surveillance Network, through which the US provides a warning service to all satellite operators, and publicly available information on the orbits of satellites and space debris. Addressing a gap in the Network’s coverage in the southern hemisphere will allow for more accurate tracking, and reduce the danger of accidental collisions between satellites and space debris.
 
The C-band radar facility will be operated by the Royal Australian Air Force on behalf of the United States, and will provide accurate warning of potential collisions in space, and tracking of objects falling to earth over Australia or our immediate region.

The space surveillance telescope will provide a complementary capability to the C-band radar. Work covering the transfer of the space surveillance telescope will be progressed by Australia and the United States, with the location of the facility to be considered in the coming months.
 
Consistent with long-standing policy, all activities at these facilities will take place with the Full Knowledge and Concurrence of the Australian Government.
 
These measures concerning Australia’s space cooperation with the United States are a demonstration of the commitment that both countries have to the SSA Partnership and our broader alliance, and continues our long history of space cooperation between our two nations.

Imagery of the MOU signing is available at: http://images.defence.gov.au/12131816

Imagery of the C-Band radar is available at: http://images.defence.gov.au/12131805


Media contact:
Mr Smith’s Office: Andrew Porter (02) 6277 7800 or 0419 474 392


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