Minister for Defence - Australia and the United States agreement on defence space cooperation

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Senator the Hon David Johnston

Minister for Defence

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22 November 2013

A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) covering the relocation of a highly advanced US space surveillance telescope to the Harold E Holt Naval Communication Facility in Exmouth has been signed in Washington by Defence Minister David Johnston and his US counterpart, Chuck Hagel.

“As a key outcome of the Australia-United States Ministerial Consultations in Washington DC, US Secretary of Defense Hagel and I signed an MoU regarding the relocation of the US space surveillance telescope to the Harold E. Holt naval base,” said Senator Johnston.

“This is a significant initiative under the Australia-US Space Situational Awareness Partnership, and will provide an important capability for both Australia and the US.

“Furthermore, it is a demonstration of the ability of Australia and the US to work together to meet shared challenges.

“Like all modern economies, Australia relies upon space for a range of purposes, including national security, banking, navigation, communications and weather forecasting. Often we do not realise that the technologies upon which our modern lifestyles depend both utilise and rely on assured access to space-based capabilities.

“Just as our dependence on space is growing, however, so too are the risks to our access to space. These risks include increasing congestion of international and commercial space use, and the growing amount of orbiting space debris. The consequences of collisions in space can be devastating and uncontrollable.”

The space surveillance telescope will assist in addressing these risks by improving the ability to monitor space over the southern hemisphere. The highly advanced technology of the telescope will enable it to observe objects in space out to 36,000km above the earth.

The telescope, which will be operated by Australia on behalf of the US, will contribute to the US global Space Surveillance Network, which provides warnings to all satellite operators of potential collisions with other satellites or debris. The telescope will complement another initiative to also relocate a C-band space surveillance radar to Exmouth.

Under the signed agreement, Australia will be responsible for constructing a building at the Harold E. Holt facility to house the telescope, and will share the costs of operating and maintaining the telescope with the US Air Force.

The telescope is expected to operate from 2016. Consistent with long-standing policy, these activities will take place with the full knowledge and concurrence of the Australian Government.

This initiative represents a giant leap forward in Australia-US defence space cooperation, and will have benefits not only for our respective countries, but also every nation and individual that relies upon space on a daily basis.

Media note:

Imagery of the MoU signing will be available for download from the Defence Image Library:

Media contacts:

Mark Dodd (Minister Johnston’s Office): (02) 6277 7800

Defence Media Operations: (02) 6127 1999

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