Australia gears up for defence satellite system in space

Space has become a potential theatre of war as well as a data super-highway.

Space has become a potential theatre of war as well as a data super-highway. Photo: EPA/Virgin Galactic

Aerospace giant Airbus has released research to back its bid for Australia’s first sovereign defence satellite communications system.

Space has become a potential theatre of war as well as a data super-highway, resulting in new security requirements for the military and an increasingly urgent decision for the federal government.

Australia’s biggest space tender closed in January for satellites and ground stations, at an expected cost of $3 billion to $4 billion.

Airbus Defence and Space said on Monday new analysis shows its approach will bring an additional $437 million to the Australian economy, over and above spending on Joint Project-9102.

It would work alongside systems used by the United States, United Kingdom and other Five Eyes partners, and would need two satellites rather than a four-satellite system, helping to keep costs down, according to Airbus.

Airbus last year formed “Team Maier” with Australian space and technology companies and universities.

Research issued on Monday assessed the benefits that Team Maier would deliver between 2021 and 2032.

On top of economic benefits, the Deloitte Access Economics research found the approach would deliver an additional 133 full-time equivalent positions each year, equating to 1463 jobs over the contract period.

To develop the local supply chain, Team Maier would incorporate five Indigenous businesses and 12 other enterprises into the Airbus supply chain, with dozens more firms to be drawn into the process.

Team members include technology and encryption specialists Blacktree Technology, Canberra’s Penten, Clearbox Systems, Sydney-based ground-control infrastructure specialist UGL, Surrey Satellite Technology and Indigenous and veteran-owned Willyama.

“Developing a world-class, globally competitive space industry takes time,” Airbus executive Ben Bridge said.

“The opportunity cost of not investing today is that Australia will miss a critical opportunity to create a step-change in the trajectory of its domestic space industry,” he said.

The research calculated an additional dividend for Australia’s space industry through investment in skills and workforce development, innovation and R&D, as well as entry into global supply chains.

Across the span of the project, the research found Team Maier would add $12.5 million in investment in educational facilities and learning opportunities and a pipeline of talent through scholarships.

Innovation and R&D would include $8.6 million to attract innovation, $16.6 million for payloads and $35.7 million on satellite assembly, integration, and testing for harsh environments.


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