Australia – and WA in particular – is set to benefit from yet another major international space project, with the announcement of a collaboration with the European Space Agency.
The Paris-based organisation is partnering with the Australian Space Agency on construction of a $70-million deep-space antenna at New Norcia, a tiny community of around 100 people located 140km north of Perth.
This latest project confirmation comes hot on the heels of the recent Federal Government announcement it would invest a further $387-million in WA’s Murchison region to build the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) low frequency antenna – an international collaboration that it says will create hundreds of high-paid jobs for workers.
Dish will support European deep-space missions
New Norcia’s dish – the second to be located just outside the town – will play a crucial role in supporting the agency’s deep-space missions, working in concert with other antennas based in Argentina and Spain to provide uninterrupted communications with spacecraft exploring the galaxy, including missions to Mars.
The new model will feature cutting edge deep-space communication technology, including a cryogenically cooled ‘antenna feed’ which can increase data return by up to 40 percent. It is expected to begin operating in 2024.
Minister for Industry, Science and Technology, Christian Porter, said space was one of the six key industry sectors targeted by the Government’s Modern Manufacturing Strategy (MMS), which aims to boost high-tech manufacturing capabilities and create sustainable and high-paying jobs for Australian workers.
“The European Space Agency’s decision to build the antenna – its second at New Norcia – is fantastic news for WA and a sign of the increasingly close relationship between our respective space agencies,” Porter said.
Project should boost local businesses in the region
“The project will also benefit local companies, who will have a chance to get involved in its construction and ongoing maintenance.”
In mid-April, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the investment in the multi-country Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project, which will have a lifespan of more than 50 years and aims to expand understanding of the universe and drive technological developments worldwide.
Australia and South Africa will each host SKA telescopes. The local SKA is projected to create more than 350 jobs during the 10-year construction phase and a further 230 ongoing positions over the life of the project.
The SKA Organisation that leads the global project is headquartered in the United Kingdom and comprises organisations from 15 countries.