The Australian Space Agency has signed a statement of strategic intent with European manufacturing giant Airbus Defence and Space SAS, representing another step in growing the capability and competitiveness of Australia’s space sector.
Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Karen Andrews welcomed the signing, the first by Australia’s new agency with an industry partner, sending a strong signal for further investment opportunities.
Airbus has been committed to growing Australia’s space industry and in June 2018 selected Wyndham airfield in Western Australia as the first flight base for its pioneering Zephyr solar-powered unmanned aircraft. Along with military operations, Zephyrs can be used for precision farming guidance, environmental and security monitoring, and to provide internet coverage to regions of poor or zero connectivity.
"The statement is confirmation of Airbus' support for Australia's space discovery, technology development and connectivity, and science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) education. Airbus has a major presence in Australia, supplying Earth observation satellite imagery to the Australian market over 25 years," Minister Andrews said.
In 2016, Airbus opened a new purpose-built ground station in Adelaide to land communications traffic from the Skynet 5 satellite.
Australian Space Agency head Dr Megan Clark AC said the statement of intent by Airbus highlighted the role Australia could play in the growing global space economy.
"We welcome Airbus’ choice of Australia for the world’s first operations of the Zephyr and Skynet 5 platforms. Wyndham is the world’s first operational site for the launch and recovery of Zephyr, which will be home to Airbus employees during operations. The Zephyr can fly for days or weeks at a time, providing surveillance over land or sea, and hosting communications links," Dr Clark said.
Nicolas Chamussy, executive vice president space systems at Airbus Defence and Space, said Airbus aimed to support projects and partnerships that contribute to growth and jobs in Australia, with a special focus on innovation and skills.
"We look forward to working with the Australian Space Agency, as well as the country’s academia, SMEs and start-ups, to develop Australia’s space sovereign capability. This includes nurturing and developing areas of strategic priority and technologies identified by an expert reference group panel," he said.
"Today's statement of strategic intent adds to the existing strong presence that Airbus has in Australia in commercial and military aircraft and helicopters. With more than 1,500 employees at 10 sites in the country, Airbus is proud to be a partner in the aviation industry and will continue our journey in the new space ecosystem in Australia," Pierre Jaffre, president Asia-Pacific at Airbus ,explained.
Zephyr is a high altitude pseudo-satellite (HAPS), stratospheric, solar-electric unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) and is the first aircraft of its kind to fly in the stratosphere. Zephyr harnesses the sun's rays, running exclusively on solar power, above the weather and conventional air traffic. It is able to fly for months at a time, combining the persistence of a satellite with the flexibility of a UAV.
The Zephyr platforms provide continuous surveillance, communications and monitoring services across areas of tens of thousands of square kilometres. Airbus has developed proven high-resolution imaging and high bandwidth communication services and is developing ever more capable payloads to further improve the range and value of services available.
Skynet 5 is currently the world’s only commercially owned military satellite communications system. It provides secure satellite communication services on X-band, a frequency band resilient to rain-fade (signal interference by precipitation) and primarily reserved for military and government users.
The Skynet 5 system also provides UHF services that are ideal for users who are on the tactical edge and need mobile, simple to use voice and data connectivity.
The world’s space economy is already estimated to be worth around US$345 billion — and it’s growing rapidly. These statements by industry partners, large and small, are designed to highlight areas of investment and growth for Australia’s unique potential in space research and development and commercial applications.
Airbus and the Australian Space Agency have a shared interest in enhancing the competitiveness and capability of the Australian space industry. This includes the growing importance of commercialisation at every point along the space value-added chain, from research and development to high-tech manufacturing, transportation, satellite operations and consumer services based on satellite signals and data.
Airbus Defence and Space has a major presence in Australia. In 2011, the Royal Australian Air Force became the launch operator of the A330 Multi Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) which it designates locally as the KC-30A. Airbus has also been supplying earth observation satellite imagery to the Australian market for over 25 years, and the company’s fully integrated optical and radar satellite constellation enables daily acquisitions at high resolutions.
In 2016, a brand new purpose built satellite ground station was established in Adelaide to land Airbus Defence and Space’s Skynet secure military satellite communications. In June 2018, Airbus selected Wyndham airfield in Western Australia as the first flight base for its pioneering Zephyr solar-powered unmanned aircraft.
Airbus’ Space Systems business line designs, develops and operates major space systems around the world. Globally, commercial and institutional customers rely on the company’s leading space and technology solutions. This covers everything from the smallest electronic parts to the full in-orbit delivery of satellites, from very-high-resolution Earth observation instruments to unprecedented deep-space exploration missions, and from today’s most reliable telecommunication satellites to unfailing International Space Station operations.