Space Policy Unit calls for Australian satellites

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Space Policy Unit calls for Australian satellites

Technological reliance raises Government concerns.

With satellite technology underpinning Australian banking, defence and meteorological systems, relying wholly on international providers may not be the best idea, the Space Policy Unit has suggested.

According to unit chair Rosalind Dubs, Australia was “a significant user of space services”, but had become overly dependent on third parties.

Australian civilians and the military used the US Global Positioning System (GPS), which also provided time information to banks.

Meanwhile, Geoscience Australia and the Bureau of Meteorology cooperated with agencies from the US, Europe, Japan, China and India for earth observation and weather data.

Dubs told attendees at yesterday’s Broadband and Beyond 2011 conference that Australia needed to own satellites or risk losing skills, revenue opportunities and control.

Although the Australian Communications and Media Authority currently regulated 12 satellite networks, including those operated by the Department of Defence, Optus and Foxtel, Dubs said the Government did not own any of its satellites.

She hoped the National Broadband Network would promote investment and innovation in the space industry by improving data transfer rates to and from satellite ground stations.

“Space sector innovation will drive GDP [gross domestic product] growth,” Dubs said.

“The worldwide experience is that for every dollar you invest in upstream space infrastructure like satellite, you generally can generate about six times that in downstream revenue.”

Since its 2009 launch, the Space Policy Unit has initiated the first of a multi-stage plan to grow the local space industry with the introduction of a $40 million Australian Space Research Program.

It planned to focus on attracting ground infrastructure projects to Australia this year, and begin launching hosted payloads on third party satellites by 2013.

By 2015, the Space Policy Unit hoped to launch a satellite that featured synthetic aperture radar technology for defence and civil use.

Dubs expected a new national space policy to come into effect within the next year.

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