Thursday, March 31, 2011

Pathways to Space Launched at the Powerhouse Museum

Kim Carr officially opened Pathways to Space at Sydney's Powerhouse Museum on the 31st of March.

Pathways to Space a three-year federally funded project allowing thousands of secondary school students to be exposed to real research into space science and robotics. The project will help inspire the next generation of Australian Engineers and Scientists both directly at the museum, or via telepresence for students who cannot get to the Powerhouse Museum.

Pathways to Space will allow students to participate in a research project on a simulated Martian surface known as the "Mars Yard" - teaching and demonstrating real life science and engineering applications.

The simulated Mars mission exhibit is formed through a partnership between the Sydney Powerhouse Museum, the University of New South Wales, the University of Sydney and Cisco Systems Australia. The project is also a recipient of nearly $1 Million from the Australian government's Australian Space Research Program.

For more information on Pathways to Space, head here.

Australian Space Research Program Round 4 Closes

March 31st saw the closure of the fourth and final round of the Australian Space Research Program. The Australian Space Research Program is an Australian government program providing $40 Million over four years to encourage both Space Education development as well as Space Science and Innovation projects.

In what is widely seen as a highly successful program, the Australian Space Research Program will wind up after the fourth round, with no current replacement announced. So far, the project has supported 11 projects - across a wide range of ideas and organisations, and has allowed Australian institutions to form many linkages with international partners. It is also understood that many good proposals have had to be turned down due to the high quality and high demand for the program.

Over the next few months, the Australian government through its Space Policy Unit will be releasing an Australian National Space Policy, which is expected to include some form of replacement for the Australian Space Research Program. I'll be watching the upcoming Federal government budget announcement very closely.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

NBNCo Satellite Announcement soon?

Space Boomerang understands that NBNCo is in the final stages of evaluating submissions from potential satellite suppliers, and that the preferred tender could be announced soon.

In what is shaping up to be a massive year for satellite opportunities in Australia, with Optus already having selected Space Systems/Loral for their next satellite - Optus 10, two Ka Band telecommunications satellites for NBNCo, and a potential for a Jabiru Satellite for NewSat, the NBNCo purchase will significantly impact the satellite telecommunications market in Australia for many years to come.

Watch this space for the announcement!

2010 VSSEC-NASA Australian Space Prize Winner Announced

The following article is reproduced from the VSSEC Press Release - for more information on the prize and the VSSEC - head to their website

NASA has announced the winner of the 2010 VSSEC-NASA Australian Space Prize. Emily Bathgate from the University of Technology Sydney will spend 10 weeks working at NASA Ames Research Center as part of the NASA Academy program. She will work on a current NASA project under the direction of a Principal Investigator, meet leading NASA scientists and engineers, and visit cutting edge research facilities such as JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratory), Virgin Galactic, SpaceX and Kennedy Space Center.

“I am extremely grateful and humbled by this amazing opportunity to be involved in the NASA mission by attending the Ames Academy. The opportunity to work with leaders in my field on a current NASA project will be an amazing experience I will never forget” said Emily.

Emily is looking for geological evidence on the Planet Mars of the presence of ice sheets and the possibility of an ancient ocean. Her work contributes to the further exploration of Mars and at the NASA Academy she will have the opportunity to collaborate with leaders in this field.

The Geology and Planetary Geology category of the space prize was supported by the Geological Society of Australia: Specialist Group in Planetary Geoscience. “We are delighted to support young Australian geoscientists and to encourage them in the pursuit of their aspirations. Emily’s Honours work is an outstanding example of the quality of the planetary geoscience research carried out in Australian universities by Australian students and their supervisors, and of the wealth of information and knowledge of planetary geology provided by data collected by NASA missions. ” (Dr Graziella Caprarelli, Chair: Specialist Group in Planetary Geoscience).

The Prize was established to promote quality space related research in Australia and raise awareness of study and career opportunities for students. The winner of the 2009 VSSEC-NASA Australian Space Prize, Elizabeth Blaber, has continued her work with NASA and developed an ongoing collaboration between UNSW School of Biological Sciences and NASA Ames. Elizabeth was invited to return to the US in late 2010 and is back at Ames doing more work on the STS-133 Mouse Immunology II experiment after being part of the post-flight recovery team at Kennedy Space Center.

Emily will work with the Victorian Space Science Education Centre to share her NASA experience with secondary students and teachers to inspire Australia’s future scientists and engineers.

Space Boomerang: Congratulations Emily! It sounds like the opportunity of a lifetime.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Optus Selects Space Systems/Loral for new Optus 10 Satellite

Image Credit: Optus

Australian Telecommunications provider Optus has selected Space Systems/Loral for its new Optus 10 telecommunications satellite.

The satellite will feature 24 Ku band transponders, and will cover both Australia and New Zealand. The satellite is expected to have a 15 year design life, and will provide broadcasting and fixed satellite services.

In an unusual design move, the satellite is expected to be smaller than comparable satellites, weighing in at about 3,200kg, with suggestion that the satellite will use ion-electric propulsion. It will be built in Palo Alto, California by Space Systems/Loral, and is expected to be delivered in 2013.

Whilst Space Systems/Loral manufactured the Optus C1 satellite, since then, Optus has used Orbital Sciences Corporation for satellite manufacture.

The satellite is not expected to be replacing any of Optus' existing satellite fleet - rather, it is expected to be adding additional capacity on top of current levels. Optus has also moved away from its previous naming convention (A, B, C and D series of Satellites) to a strictly number based convention.

No Launcher for the Optus 10 satellite has been announced yet, however if the weight remains at 3,200kg, it may be able to take a dual launch slot on an Ariane 5 launcher.

Optus 10 is likely to be the start of several Australian satellites to be purchased in the next year or two, with NBNCo close to announcing the provider for two Ka-band satellites, as well as plans by NewSat to launch their own Jabiru telecommunications satellite.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Australia's Heavy Reliance on Satellite Positioning Technology

In the recent weeks, there has been quite a lot of news regarding global reliance on the GPS System. In Australia, there have been articles in the Sydney Morning Herald, as well as discussion about the threat from GPS jamming from the ABC and The Australia. But Perhaps the most interesting article has come from Jonathon Amos at the BBC who has examined the value of GPS to Europe.

In Jonathon's article, he highlights two reports, one from the European Commission's Midterm Review of the European Satellite Navigation Programmes Galileo and EGNOS, as well as a report from the Space Policy Institute of George Washington University.

In the article, there are two key phrases about the total economic dependence on Satellite Navigation. For the European Union:

  "It is estimated that currently 6-7% of GDP of developed countries, €800bn in Europe, depends on satellite navigation."
and for the United States:

The GW study estimated the combined contribution of these sectors to US GDP to be $1,342bn, or about 9.5% of GDP in 2009. This was deemed to be a conservative assessment.

This got me thinking about how dependent the Australian economy would be to Satellite Navigation and Positioning technology, and what percentage of GDP this would represent.

So I decided to follow the same economic assumptions that led to European Assessment, to see what this would represent in Australia. This is where I got the % reliance of each sector from.

For my economic numbers I used the Australian Bureau of Statistics latest "Australian National Accounts: National Income, Expenditure and Product" for the December Quarter. Page 65 for the Annual Numbers.

Delivery Services (Transport, postal and warehousing in Australian numbers) - $61.3 Billion @ 100% contribution = $61.3 Billion
Utilities (Electricity, gas, water and waste services in Australian numbers) - $25.9 Billion @ 60% = $15.54 Billion
Banking and Financial (Financial and insurance services in Australian numbers)- $131.9  Billion @ 35% = $46.165 Billion
Agriculture (Agriculture in Australian numbers) - $23.6 Billion @ 10% = $2.36 Billion
Communications (Information media and telecommunications in Australian numbers) - $38.9 Billion @ 10% = $3.89 Billion

So in total, I came up with a figure of $129.55 Billion, which would represent a total of 10.1% of the Australian GDP of $1,283.8Bn. And this does NOT take into account any reliance of the mining industry in Australia, which was worth $121Bn in 2009-10, which has clear reliance upon satellite positioning technology.

An absolutely astonishing figure, and one that needs real attention from the Space Policy Unit in their current development of the National Space Policy.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Two interesting Australian Space articles from the SMH

The Sydney Morning Herald has published two interesting articles recently related to Space in Australia. I encourage you to head over and read them, as well as comment on them with your thoughts.

From the Sceptic Science (Brad Newsome) examining the question: "Does Australia need a sizeable space program?"

And one from Andrew Darby entitled - "A little bit of our own space"

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Russia to track GLONASS from Australia

The Russian Space Agency is reporting that it is about to sign an agreement on "the establishment of monitoring stations for the Russian GLONASS navigation system" near Brisbane.

It is also reporting that it is also considering Australian participation in Russian research programs.

I believe that members from the Russian Space Agency are in Australia for the 14th Australian International Aerospace Congress currently being held in Melbourne, and may be holding discussions with the Australian Space Policy Unit.

It comes hot on the heels of other agreements with the USA and UK, and shows that the Space Policy Unit must be working very hard at the moment.

RMIT holding discussions with Russia for Space Facilities

The ABC in this article is reporting that RMIT is holding discussions with the Russian Federal Space Agency about the possibility of building two space tracking centres in Australia.

In particular, the centres would involve a "Space mission control centre" and a "near earth object space observation centre" that would allow asteroid tracking in the southern hemisphere.

Australia is one of only a handful of southern hemisphere countries that are well placed to host facilities for Northern  Hemisphere Countries who need southern hemisphere coverage. Such facilities represent a nice leveraging of investment for the Australian government to gain advanced space facilities and form long term partnerships with international Space Agencies.

Space Boomerang Turns One

On the 24th of February 2011 Space Boomerang turned one year old!

Back on the 24th of Feb 2010, the Space Boomerang Blog was born. In the 12 months since, I have received lots of positive feedback and have had contact with many different people across the Australian Space industry. I must say I've also learned a lot of new things in the process.

The blog itself has received thousands of hits from across the world, and appears to be building up a regular following. Don't forget, if you have any interesting news or information about the Australian Space industry, or just want to say hello, drop me an email at spaceboomerang (at)

Thank you all for reading Space Boomerang, and I hope make Space Boomerang's second year a good one!