Australia’s military is to join some of the world’s superpowers in setting up a dedicated arm to protect the country’s space assets, including satellites.
The new Space Division is to comprise specialist personnel from the various services within the ADF and will be located in Canberra under the command of the Royal Australian Air Force.
But the ADF is at pains to emphasise that it does not support the militarisation of space, with the Chief of the Air Force, Air Marshal Mel Hupfeld, noting that “all space operations are conducted consistent with international and domestic legal obligations”.
He said Australia had to guarantee its future access to the “contested domain” of space, something which was becoming increasingly important given the daily reliance on space for the country’s understanding of the weather, navigating, access to geospatial information, and sharing of information across Australia and worldwide.
New division to start operating next year
The Space Division is scheduled to begin operating in 2022 and the Defence department will invest $7-billion in developing space capabilities over the next decade.
Hupfeld is currently conducting a Space Domain Review to improve how the nation’s space capabilities are managed, acquired and operated.
Heading up the new division will be Air Vice-Marshal Cath Roberts, who is Head of Air Force Capability at present.
A self-professed science fiction buff, Roberts has always been fascinated by advanced technology and space.
“As an aerospace engineer I have always been fascinated by space – the ultimate high-ground,” she said. “To reach for the stars and actually get there is a phenomenal feeling.”
Labor is supportive, says shadow treasurer
Speaking at the National Press Club, shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers said the Labor Party supported the creation of the Space Division.
“There are new frontiers in defence technology all of the time, and any country like ours investing so heavily in our defence needs to keep up with those developments and ideally get ahead of them,” he stated.
“If the developments in technology require us to invest in those areas, then so be it.”
In 2019, US President Donald Trump officially established the US Space Command as the Defense Department’s 11th combatant command.