Airbus forms local partnerships to support Australia’s space industry

31 Aug 2018

European aerospace corporation Airbus has confirmed its long-term commitment to Australia’s space sector by announcing two new partnerships.

Airbus will become a founding member of the proposed SmartSat Cooperative Research Centre (CRC), led by the University of South Australia and Nova Systems. The announcement was made in June 2018 by Nicolas Chamussy, Airbus’ Global Head of Space Systems.

Airbus also signed a collaborative memorandum of understanding with the University of New South Wales (UNSW) and Skykraft, UNSW’s space company, to develop hyperspectral remote sensing technology.

‘We want to “walk the talk” and we are determined to do so,’ says Chamussy in a media release, speaking of Airbus’ long-term commitment to Australia’s space sector.

‘Airbus is proud to partner with local industry on dedicated space projects. It is our intention to work with academia, SMEs and startups to develop Australia’s space sovereign capability, nurturing and developing areas of strategic priority and leapfrog technologies identified by the expert reference group panel.

‘Airbus could help Australia in concentrating on new disruptive areas while achieving strategic agreements with international industries and space agencies.’

The aerospace company has previously welcomed the creation of the Australian Space Agency, which it expects will allow Australia to take advantage of current and upcoming disruptions to the space sector.

Airbus is actively establishing a physical space industry footprint in Australia, including:

  • Zephyr High Altitude Pseudo Satellite Australian Operations: On 4 June 2018 Airbus announced it would establish the first Zephyr operating base at Wyndham, Western Australia, as part of the ongoing development of the Zephyr High Altitude Pseudo Satellite (HAPS) capability.
  • Bartolomeo External Payload Hosting Service –: Airbus and Neumann Space (a South Australian SME), have signed a flight contract for the Neumann Drive, a revolutionary, patented solar-electric ion drive, to fly on Bartolomeo. The flight contract is an important milestone in launching Neumann Space’s payload into orbit. As part of the deal, Neumann Space has launched the South Australia Schools Space Mission to provide students with an opportunity to send physical experiments into space. Airbus is pursuing partnerships with Australian SMEs, universities, startups and other organisations to support the development of domestic space capabilities.
  • SkyNet 5 Ground Station in Mawson Lakes, Adelaide, South Australia: Airbus has invested approximately A$18 million to build a Satellite Ground station located in Mawson Lakes. Its initial purpose is to act as a hub for the UK’s SkyNet 5 military satellite network in the Asia-Pacific region. This network provides secure and protected satellite communications at X band and UHF for the UK and its allies. The site is a secure facility and handles sensitive traffic from the UK and its allies. In future, it could be used in support of Australia’s aspirations to have its own protected satellite communications capability to provide resilient government communications in times of crisis. Mawson Lakes is designated as one of two ground stations in the Asia-Pacific region to support the third satellite for Airbus’ Space Data Highway, which is being launched in 2021.