• A significant sovereign risk is seen when it comes to the complete reliance of Australia on data from foreign-owned satellites in weather forecasting, resource and water management, and disaster response applications.
  • The risk can be inhibited if the country invests in a home-grown Earth observation satellite program.
  • Professor Fred Menk, Chair of the working group that developed the plan, said that “Meeting Australia’s future earth observation needs requires appropriate sovereign capability including enhanced science, observations, analysis, and modelling capability.”

A significant sovereign risk is seen when it comes to the complete reliance of Australia on data from foreign-owned satellites in weather forecasting, resource and water management, and disaster response applications.

According to various scientists, the risk can be inhibited if the country invests in a home-grown Earth observation satellite program. Under this program, the designing, building, launching, and operation of the satellites and the sensors on-board will be used to collect a wide range of data types. This new recommendation is encompassed in the national 10-year plan for Australian space science which the Australian Academy of Science launched.

Professor Fred Menk, Chair of the working group that developed the plan, said that “Meeting Australia’s future earth observation needs requires appropriate sovereign capability including enhanced science, observations, analysis, and modelling capability.” Professor Menk also chairs the National Committee for Space and Radio Science of the Academy.

According to the report, all satellite data used in the country comes from foreign sources. This means there is no guarantee that growing environmental, commercial, and geopolitical data will always be readily available. In this case, a sovereign Earth observation program should be started by the Australian Space Agency. The program should be designed to allow the nation to address grand national challenges and eliminate data supply risk.

In addition to this, the report also recommends developing an integrated program to research high-bandwidth RF and optical communications technologies from space. The research should span satellite networks, advanced onboard processing, and next-generation secure PNT capabilities.

The Academy said that satellite communications services accounted for 76% of Australian space industry revenue in 2018. However, the spectrum space for communications services is already limited and increasingly congested.

The report stated: “Future high capacity global communications will likely be facilitated by resource sharing across relays and multiple satellite systems in GEO and networked constellations in LEO; smart and adaptive on-board and on-ground processing, and advances in hybrid RF and optical communications technologies.”

Some of the other priorities in the ten-year plan include appointing a lead scientist as well as garnering funding for an ongoing series of national space missions. According to the report, a funding of $40 million in four years will already build and validate a range of science payloads and spacecraft systems. This will enable modular mission design overall. The report also concluded that a national space weather research program is essential in protecting Australian infrastructure assets from adverse space weather events.