Wednesday, November 14, 2012

United States to Relocate Space Surveillance Radar to Australia

Announced as part of the AUSMIN 2012 meeting in Perth between the United States and Australia, the United States will relocate one of it's C-band surveillance radar from Antigua to Exmouth in Western Australia. This aligns with Project JP 3029 as part of the 2012 Australian Defence Capability Plan.

In addition there is discussion that a DARPA-built optical telescope could also be relocated from New Mexico to Western Australia to monitor Space Debris and Satellites right out to GEO, as well as the potential establishment for a combined communications gateway to support the Wideband Global SATCOM System, of which Australia is already a partner and has paid for an additional satellite in the constellation.

Overall the announcement represents a major step in US-Australian Space collaboration, as well as a significant boost to the Australian Defence Force space situational awareness capability.

The Joint Communique released states:

We recognised the need to address the rising threat presented by increasing congestion in space from over 50 years of space activities and a significant rise in space debris. In particular, we need to ensure our continued access to space assets for services critical to the functioning of modern economies, as well as for national security purposes.

In response, we have brought forward a new and important element of this cooperation by signing a Memorandum of Understanding on the relocation and establishment of a jointly-operated US C-Band space surveillance radar at the Harold E. Holt Naval Communication Station in Western Australia. We have also decided to work towards the relocation of a highly advanced US Space Surveillance Telescope to Australia.

The relocation of these capabilities will strengthen the US global Space Surveillance Network's ability to track space assets and debris, and contribute to the global public good by making this information publicly available and providing satellite operators around the world with warnings of possible collisions between space objects, thereby reducing the danger posed by space debris.

The relocation and joint operation of these assets is a demonstration of our commitment to closer space cooperation, and builds upon the Space Situational Awareness Partnership established between Australia and the United States at AUSMIN in 2010.

In addition, the Joint Communique reaffirms the joint commitment to:
  • relocate a US C-Band space surveillance radar to Western Australia in 2014, where it will track space assets and debris, contribute to the safety and security of space-based systems on which we rely and increase coverage of space objects in the southern hemisphere;
  • complement the C-Band space surveillance radar capability by working towards the relocation of an advanced US space surveillance telescope to Australia, and explore ways to better leverage Australian space surveillance capabilities for combined benefit, as next steps under the Space Situational Awareness Partnership signed in 2010;
  • discuss the possible establishment of a Combined Communications Gateway in Western Australia, which would provide both Australia and the United States greater access to the Wideband Global Satellite communications constellation in which we are partners. The discussions follow the signature of a Military Satellite Communications Partnership Statement of Principles in 2008;
Overall, the facilities will help provide the United States with far better Space Situational Awareness capability in the Southern Hemisphere, whilst also giving Australia direct access to advanced Space Situational Awareness Technology. It will also allow both countries to keep a very close watch on any space launches coming from Asia, as well as both satellites and space debris already in orbit. 

The C-Band radar will cost around $30 Million to relocate, with an annual $10 Million operation cost annually. It is anticipated that US personnel will train Australian operators, rather than remain in Australia to operate the system. The Radar facility is scheduled to be up and running in 2014. 


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