Standing up space launch sites in Australia will help provide back up capabilities if allies’ facilities go down and ensure continued access to critical technologies, the head of the country’s space agency says.
Enrico Palermo says Australia’s unique geography, climate and political landscape makes it attractive for countries like the United States to co-invest in space infrastructure.
“We’re a country that can protect sensitive technologies to develop spaceports,” the Australian Space Agency boss told an air and space conference in Canberra on Wednesday.
“Internationally, we can offer an alternate site as ranges fill up and exceed the demand, or are perhaps taken out by weather or other other formats. We can provide resiliency to that that launch network internationally.”
Australia’s priority remains the continued access to space, with an attack against a satellite or its ground connection possibly wiping out communications and navigation systems, as well as intelligence and surveillance capabilities, banking and the internet.
CEO and co-founder of Gilmour Space Technologies Adam Gilmour says allies could then look to Australian launch sites if theirs have been targeted during conflict.
“I’ve talked to people from other foreign militaries and I’ve said if the bad guys take out our satellites, do you really think they’re going to stop and not take out your launch sites? The sites I’ve seen have all these big tanks full of very explosive propellants,” he told the conference.
“If we have alternative launch sites in Australia, we have alternative launch vehicles in Australia and we have alternative satellite capability that’s totally interoperable, it is a fantastic asset for all of us to keep space safe.”
Australia’s nascent space defence command will work alongside its US counterpart to ensure continued access to space and communication technology.
The US Space Force’s chief of space operations General John Raymond says the main focus for America and its partners is on resilience and a pivot away from current cutting-edge satellites that were built for “a different domain”.
“Space is a much different domain than it was just a handful of years ago. It’s much more competitive, it’s much more congested and it’s contested,” he said.
General Raymond said international partnerships were the key to deterring potential conflicts in space as adversaries like China and Russia become more brazen.
Russia’s shooting down of one of its defunct satellites generating more than 1500 pieces of debris, and China’s towing of a dead satellite into a “graveyard orbit”, have raised concerns about potential future conflicts.
“The scope and scale of those activities are concerning but I’m very comfortable that we’re the best in the world at space and I’m very comfortable that we can protect and defend our capabilities,” the general said.
“The reason why these partnerships are so important is we want to move fast, we want to stay ahead of those threats to make sure the US and our allies always have the space capabilities we’ve come to rely on.”
But specific conversations regarding Australian launch sites were yet to be had, General Raymond said.
Australia’s own partnerships with Pacific island nations are also integral to sharing data that can aid with disaster assistance and humanitarian responses, Australia’s new space command head says.
“In the Indo Pacific, we’ve really got to make sure that we’ve got the services that we need to be able to operate both militarily and to actually support our way of life,” Air Vice-Marshal Cath Roberts told the conference.
“One of the things that we’re doing with the Australian Space Agency is looking at how we could actually do a national mission where we have civilian data that would allow us to share information on things like volcanoes erupting.”
(Australian Associated Press)