UK–Australia space bridge on course to support new ground station

23 February 2022

Australia’s space industry took another leap forward in February 2022, with the launch of a National Space Industry Hub in Sydney.

The event showed the importance of Australia’s space industry. A sentiment echoed by the actions of British telecommunications specialist, Goonhilly Satellite Earth Station (Goonhilly). Today Goonhilly’s Australian office confirmed the progress of its plans to build a major new ground station in Western Australia (WA).

The ground station will aid earth-space communications during space-exploration missions to the moon and beyond.

COVID-19 lockdowns knocked the project off its original trajectory. But Dr Bob Gough, Goonhilly’s Head of Business Development (Australia and Asia-Pacific), says plans are back on track.

‘We will build a bank of several multimillion-dollar antennas’ he says. ‘It’s also planned to host another optical ground station to complement the existing one in Perth. Together they will add to the world’s specialist transmission capabilities.’

As the project takes off, Goonhilly is set to sponsor a PhD student in Australia. Gough says the intent is to boost local skills.

WA ground station to support space missions

In October 2020, Goonhilly signed a strategic agreement to help build an optical ground station at the University of Western Australia in Perth. Goonhilly and the Australian Centre of Excellence for Engineered Quantum Systems (EQUS) funded the project. This laser communications station will enable high-speed data transmission to and from orbiting spacecraft.

It is already in use in a collaboration with Australia’s SmartSat Collaborative Research Centre (CRC).

The ground station will also be used for fundamental physics, precision earth science and resource geophysics. Gough says the project shows Australia’s ambitions in space.

‘The enthusiasm in Australia’s space arena is phenomenal,’ he says. ‘People have a vision and know what’s achievable. They are prepared to take risks and go out and do it.’

Sirius-Stars

Caption: Antenna GHY-3, known locally as Guinevere, is a new state-of-the-art cryogenic receiver in Cornwall, UK. Goonhilly plans to build similar antennas in Western Australia.

UK–Australia Space Bridge boosts investment

The ground station is supported by the UK–Australia Space Bridge. The Space Bridge was inaugurated in February 2021. It aims to improve mutual access to space projects. The bridge also aims to trigger investment and academic collaboration.

For example, Gough says the new WA ground station will build skills and local capability. It will also create employment opportunities.

‘This will facilitate collaboration and knowledge sharing between the UK and Australia,’ says Gough.

Together with universities and government, businesses like Goonhilly are helping to propel Australia’s civil space industry into its next phase of growth. Gough credits Anglo-Australian space collaboration.

‘The support and help of the Australian Space Agency, the UK Space Agency and Austrade were and remain instrumental to this growth,’ says Gough. ‘They have helped us so much by way of the UK–Australia Space Bridge initiative.’

Deep space investment to trigger advanced manufacturing

The ground station is located in remote WA because astronomy and deep space communications require minimal interference. However, the project will bring Australian space scientists closer to global programs.

‘The antennae in outback WA will form part of a worldwide, commercially viable private network of deep space ground stations,’ says Gough.

Gough say the project has the potential trigger new, advanced manufacturing capabilities in Australia. Gough says this is what happened in the UK. He also says the project has growth potential.

‘The value of investing in smart communities speaks to the lofty vision of the UK-Australia Space Bridge,’ he says.

Go further, faster with Austrade

Contact an Austrade investment specialist in the UK to find out more about Australia’s space program.