ANU's Roger Franzen, chats with Senator Kate
Lundy, who launched the policy.

ANU's Roger Franzen, chats with Senator Kate Lundy, who launched the policy. Photo: Graham Tidy

The use of satellite technology has been ramped up as a national priority, with the launch of Australia's first ever space policy.

Assistant Industry and Innovation  Minister Kate Lundy on Tuesday officially released Australia's Satellite Utilisation Policy, saying it would provide certainty and strategic direction for satellite technology users.

Before a gathering of scientists at MT Stromlo Observatory, Senator Lundy said on-going, cost effective access to satellite capabilities was essential to Australia's future.

Professor Russell Boyce, right, chats with Senator
Kate Lundy, who launched the policy.

Professor Russell Boyce, right, chats with Senator Kate Lundy, who launched the policy. Photo: graham.tidy@fairfaxmedia.com.au

"Australians, whether they know it or not, rely on satellites every day," She said.

"Whether it's for navigation, getting accurate weather forecasts, or communication in remote areas, Australians have a growing appetite for satellite services.

"This space policy will ensure that Australians can continue to access the satellite capacity we need through partnerships with other countries and commercial suppliers."

The space policy is designed to pay economic dividends for Australia.

Satellite imagery alone was estimated in a 2010 report to contribute about $3.3 billion per year to GDP.

Positioning technologies were estimated in 2008 to have added $1 billion per year to GDP, and this is forecast to grow to between $6 and $12 billion by 2030.

Under the new policy, a new Space Coordination Office in the Department of Industry, Innovation, Climate Change, Science, Research and Tertiary Education will be in operation from July 1.

It will be responsible for coordinating and showcasing Australia's domestic civilian space activities.

Other key aspects of Australia's Satellite Utilisation Policy include:

  • giving priority to earth observations from space; satellite communications; and position, navigation and timing;
  • contributing to international ‘rules of the road' for space through Australian space situational awareness infrastructure and diplomatic efforts;
  • building and retaining high quality Australian space expertise; and
  • developing a plan to meet projected growth in Australia's satellite information needs by modernising and consolidating Australia's ground infrastructure.

On show at the policy launch were 14 space research projects highlighting Australia's pioneering leadership in satellite technology.

The Australian National University's Daniel Shaddock displayed an ANU-CSIRO project that is working together with NASA and German scientists to study the earth's gravity and how masses such as water move around the globe.

The project has been useful in measuring groundwater in the Murray-Darling Basin.