Defence aspects of Australia's space activities

Author/s (editor/s):

Desmond Ball

Publication year:

1992

Publication type:

Policy paper

Canberra Papers on Strategy and Defence No. 91

Australia has been extensively involved in space activities of one sort or another since the 1950s. In many cases, projects undertaken in Australia or Australian products have been at the very forefront of international developments. But the Australian activity has always been uneven and fitful. Opportunities have been lost and investments wasted. We have lacked a national space policy capable of providing coherence and direction to this activity.

This monograph provides a comprehensive assessment of the defence elements of an Australian space policy. It describes in some detail Australia's defence space activities, including the joint Australian/US facilities at Pine Gap and Nurrungar; the DSD SATCOM SIGINT facilities; Australia's involvement in the US Defence Satellite Communication System (DSCS) and the US Navy's Fleet Satellite Communication (FLTSATCOM) System; Australia's involvement in navigation, positioning and geodetic satellite systems; Australia's defence satellite communications programs; and the space related activities of the Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO).

The monograph discusses four principal aspects of defence civil cooperation with respect to space activities - the exploitation for national purpose of the skills and experience extant in Australia's defence and intelligence space activities; the benefits to Defence of the capabilities developed in the Australian aerospace industry; the need to coordinate defence and civil infrastructural development projects with respect to space; and the possibilities for defence-civil cooperation with respect to satellite surveillance and environmental monitoring programs and capabilities.

Finally, it addresses practical and mechanical considerations concerning the coordination of Australia's defence, intelligence and civil space activities. It argues that the appropriate machinery for coordination should be based on the existing Australian Space Board (ASB) and Australian Space Office (ASO), and it concludes with some proposals for strengthening this machinery, including more effective incorporation of Australia's defence and intelligence space activities in a national Australian space policy.

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