Sunday, February 6, 2011

Wikileaks identifies secret Australian - US Space Agreement

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.)

1 comment:

  1. We have always had this agreement. Back in the early 1970s right up to today. Pine Gap was a real big site that was built to get data from spy satellites when they were on this side of the world. As part of allowing Pine Gap on Australian soil, the US s...hared the intelligence gathered. I was under the Australian secrecy act at the time, but the timeline for the freedom of information has passed. I looked after the data circuits from North West Cape and Pine Gap to name a few. They headed off to the US and I forget where specifically. Needless to say you don't need leaks for this.

    I was almost hired recently to work with the Australian military on applications with the US Dept of Defence satellites. The Australian company going after that contract did not get it so I was spared the joys of another job that I could never talk about.