A new frontier of collaboration between Australia and the United States will see two powerful space monitoring facilities housed in WA.
US Secretary of Defence Leon Panetta said the decision to house multi-million dollar radar and telescope facilities in the southern hemisphere was a brave new world for the Australian/US alliance.
“This is a major leap forward in bilateral space co-operation and an important new frontier in the United States’ rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region,” Mr Panetta said.
A C-band radar will be transferred from the US Air Force base in Antigua to the Harold E Holt Naval Communications Facility at Exmouth, Western Australia, at an initial cost of $30 million.
“It will add considerably to surveillance of space debris in our part of the world,” Defence Minister Stephen Smith told a news conference after the AUSMIN meetings in Perth.
The radar facility should be up and running by 2014, with a new space surveillance telescope (SST) - designed to track small objects as far away as 35,000 km - to follow.
US personnel will set up and train Australian staff to run the radar facility. No US military staff will be permanently placed in Australia.
An Australian defence communique following the announcements said the decision was prompted by the poor space surveillance coverage in the southern hemisphere.
“(The partnership) will give Australia valuable opportunities to gain both expertise and capability in space situational awareness through access to US data, training and advice,” the statement said.
“Both of these facilities will extend the coverage of the US Space Surveillance Network, which will better enable the tracking and monitoring of space objects over our region and allow for more accurate predictions of potential collisions or threats from debris.”
The new telescope facility will be built by the Pentagon’s hi-tech research arm, the Defence Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA)