US, Australia sign space surveillance deal

November 8, 2010 by Dan De Luce

Australia and the United States on Monday signed an agreement to cooperate in surveillance of space, possibly expanding the reach of a US military network tracking satellites and space junk.

The US military increasingly relies on satellites for navigation, targeting, secure communications and intelligence gathering, and strategists worry about the potential for collisions, as well as China's investments in defence technology.

" and the United States shared a deep concern about the increasingly inter-dependent, congested, and contested nature of outer space," the two sides said in a statement, after annual security talks.

The countries "acknowledged that preventing behaviours that could result in mishaps, misperceptions or mistrust was a high priority," it added.

The accord follows accusations from the United States that China has tried to "militarise" space and the Pentagon says Beijing has invested heavily in space weaponry.

China in 2007 launched a to knock out one of its old weather satellites, sparking sharp criticism from Washington and around the world. The incident added over 6,000 pieces of debris to space orbits, Monday's joint statement said.

As part of the agreement, US Defence Secretary Robert Gates told reporters discussions would begin in January on possibly adding ground-based radar sensors in Australia to the US military's space surveillance network.

The network's purpose includes monitoring satellite traffic for possible collisions and seeking to prevent damage to vital defence-related satellites.

"The growing number of countries and companies placing satellites in space is also adding to the congestion, particularly in certain orbits," it said.

Gates said Australia and the were working "hand-in-hand" to enhance military cooperation in emerging domains such as space and cyber security.

"The Space Situational Awareness Partnership statement of principles signed today, for example, will lead to greater cooperation between our militaries in the areas of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance," Gates said.

No final decision had been reached yet on adding radar sensors but Australia's geographic position could fill a gap in tracking objects in space over the southern hemisphere, officials said.

"In particular, there is poor space surveillance coverage in the southern hemisphere, which compromises global" tracking of objects in orbit, the statement said.

US officials said no separate American base would be built. The joint statement said Australia preferred any radars to "be operated as joint facilities, and co-located with existing defence facilities such as at Naval Communications Station Harold E. Holt at Exmouth in Western Australia."

As part of the agreement signed Monday, Australia would gain access to US data, training and advice in , it said.

In Melbourne for annual security talks with Australian officials, Gates also said that the two nations will set up a working group to draw up options for expanded defence cooperation on Australian soil.

Gates, at a briefing later, said no decisions had been taken but that options could include prepositioning of equipment for disaster relief in Australia, more training, more port visits by American warships and more joint use of Australian bases.

Explore further: US sends 2 missile defense satellites into orbit

Related Stories

New US satellite to monitor debris in Earth orbit

July 3, 2010

(AP) -- A new U.S. Air Force satellite will provide the first full-time, space-based surveillance of hundreds of satellites and thousands of pieces of debris that could crash into American and allied assets circling the ...

Launch delayed for satellite to watch space debris

July 6, 2010

(AP) -- The launch of a new U.S. Air Force space surveillance satellite has been delayed due to a software problem in a rocket similar to the one that will lift the satellite into orbit.

Recommended for you

Video: A colorful 'landing' on Pluto

January 20, 2017

What would it be like to actually land on Pluto? This movie was made from more than 100 images taken by NASA's New Horizons spacecraft over six weeks of approach and close flyby in the summer of 2015. The video offers a trip ...

Freeze-dried food and 1 bathroom: 6 simulate Mars in dome

January 20, 2017

Crammed into a dome with one bathroom, six scientists will spend eight months munching on mostly freeze-dried foods—with a rare treat of Spam—and have only their small sleeping quarters to retreat to for solace.

Image: Wavemaker moon Daphnis

January 20, 2017

The wavemaker moon, Daphnis, is featured in this view, taken as NASA's Cassini spacecraft made one of its ring-grazing passes over the outer edges of Saturn's rings on Jan. 16, 2017. This is the closest view of the small ...

The evolution of massive galaxy clusters

January 20, 2017

Galaxy clusters have long been recognized as important laboratories for the study of galaxy formation and evolution. The advent of the new generation of millimeter and submillimeter wave survey telescopes, like the South ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.