The Sydney Morning Herald is reporting that Australia and the United States have formed a "partnership to share top-secret intelligence from spy satellites". According to the article, the agreement was signed in February 2008, and has been revealed in secret US embassy cables obtained by Wikileaks.
The article goes on to identify that the agreement was signed by the then defence minister Joel Fitzgibbon and US Defence Secretary Robert Gates and was referred to as a "statement of principles on geospatial intelligence co-operation", however it was not identified in the 2008 AUSMIN Communique, with the leaked cable classified secret.
The article goes on to link the agreement to the 2009 Defence White Paper announcement to acquire a Radar based remote sensing satellite, and suggests that Boeing, Raytheon or Lockheed Martin are the most likely contractors to build the satellite, which would be entirely built and launched in the US.
It also suggests that the NRO is working closely with the Australian Satellite project, and that the Australian Satellite would form part a constellation that the NRO operates. The estimated cost of the satellite would be between "$820 million to $1.65 billion".
Whilst the Satellite project is no surprise to me, as it has been flagged in the Public Defence White paper, it certainly demonstrates the increasingly close alliance between Australia and the US in all things related to Defence Space, and seems to take a similar approach to the Wideband Global Satcom (WGS) project, where Australia has contributed to the cost of one satellite, whilst gaining access to the entire constellation.
It also demonstrates a more active approach from Australian Defence in becoming a producer within the satellite imagery world, rather than just a user. I do hope that in the realisation of the project there is as much local industry content as possible, to create a legacy within industry for future space capabilities.
(note that this post has adapted information from the SMH article which can be found in full here.)