Australia Establishes Defense Space Command

Air Vice-Marshal Catherine Roberts, Commander Defence Space Command, at the opening of the Defence Space Command Headquarters. Credit: Leading Aircraftman Sam Price

Australia has established Defence Space Command to further develop its military space capabilities and counter emerging threats.

The newly established arm will be led by Defence Space Commander Air Vice-Marshal Cath Roberts.

The Space Command will include Navy, Army and Air Force personnel, members of the Australian Public Service and contractors.

Australian Chief of the Defense Force General Angus Campbell said that the space domain is a critical aspect to the warfighting effectiveness of the Australian Defense Force (ADF).

The space arm will also help in enhancing situational awareness and provide real-time communications in the current geostrategic environment.

General Campbell said: “The decision to create a single organization to coordinate and manage Defence’s endeavours in space is significant.”

Chief of Air Force Air Marshal Mel Hupfeld said: “The government has committed to significantly increasing investment in Defence’s space capabilities by investing around $5.2 billion this decade to assure our access to space, space services and geospatial information.

“While technologies and systems are important, they are only part of what enables the delivery of space power. Our people and partners will bring the curiosity, creativity and collaborative spirit required to conceive the space power required to meet our future challenges.”

Why does Australia need to put so much effort into space and space defense? One reason is Australia (like the rest of the world) depends on space-based technologies to provide communications, navigation and timing, and Earth-observing services.

Defence and UNSW Canberra have jointly invested more than A$30 million since 2015 in this program. In that time, we have has developed four missions with five satellites. We have also performed extensive research and development for artificial intelligence-enabled space systems. We have also tracked and predicted the behaviour of satellites and their interactions with the space environment (known as “space domain awareness”).

Our most recent mission, M2, was launched in March 2021. It consists of two advanced satellites demonstrating technologies for Earth observation, satellite monitoring, communications and in-orbit artificial intelligence.

The M2 mission demonstrated cutting-edge technologies. UNSW Canberra, Author provided

Our missions have grown defence’s capacity and capability for developing and operating space technologies to meet national needs. The technical and operational lessons we learn feed directly into our space education program and also our plans for the future.

Just as importantly, the team has spawned three Canberra-based spin-off companies (Skykraft, Infinity Avionics and Nominal Systems) and established a domestic supply chain of approximately 30 organisations to support the missions. We have also contributed more than 20 highly skilled space professionals to other parts of the Australian space sector.

UNSW Canberra Space, along with our colleagues across the university sector, agencies such as Defence Science and Technology Group, the Australian Space Agency, CSIRO and Geoscience Australia, and in industry, has ambitious plans for new Australian space missions in the coming years.

The innovations that flow will be many, and the growth in skills across the country will be extensive. With coordination, these outcomes will make an important and enduring contribution to the success of Defence Space Command.

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