• Artist concept of the Airbus Arrow satellite platform. (Airbus)
    Artist concept of the Airbus Arrow satellite platform. (Airbus)

Updated 20/7 1600

Australia’s Chief Defence Scientist Professor Tanya Monro has announced that Airbus has been selected as the strategic partner for Defence’s Resilient Multi-mission Space STaR Shot – a strategic research program established to develop future space capabilities for the Australian Defence Force (ADF).

An experienced satellite developer and integrator, Airbus Defence and Space will work with Defence to deliver the Defence space research program which is aimed at ensuring Australian war fighters have assured access to satellite services. 

“By partnering with Airbus, we will fast-track the development of critical satellite technologies for the ADF, and ensure that our war fighters have ongoing access to resilient and trusted communication, intelligence and surveillance services,” Professor Monro said.

Airbus was selected as the preferred strategic partner by a panel of experts from Defence and the Australian Space Agency. It will be supported by three Australian industry partners: Inovor Technologies, Shoal Group and Deloitte, as well as academic partners and a range of Australian small-to-medium enterprises. 

Under the agreement, the team will advance the development and maturation of leap-ahead technologies in support of the Australian Defence Force. It will also explore new operating concepts, and support the development and Space qualification of Australian sovereign payload and satellite components.

“This is a true collaboration between government, industry and academia that will help position our growing Australian space sector to deliver future sovereign space technologies and operational capabilities,” Professor Monro said.

Planning has already commenced for two experimental satellite missions. Defence has purchased two Airbus Arrow 150 satellite buses valued at over $20 million. These satellite buses will be outfitted with payloads and technologies developed by Australian industry and academia. Airbus has developed the Arrow platform from its OneWeb Satellites that it builds in the US.

“The Arrow satellites provide some of the earliest possible opportunities to take Australian-developed Defence payloads into space,” she said.

“As our domestic space sector matures, we will use locally designed and built satellites that are expected to be the most ambitious satellites ever designed and built in Australia.”

In total, the Airbus partnership represents an investment of more than $40 million in satellite technologies.

“Self-reliance in space technologies is critical if we are to ensure the defence and security of the country,” Professor Monro said.

The signing of the strategic partnership augments an ongoing strategic relationship between Defence and Airbus under a Strategic Research and Development Alliance.

“Partnering with Australia for this RMS STaR Shot agreement demonstrates our firm commitment to further enhancing the sovereign space capability and expertise of the Australian Space sector," Richard Franklin, Managing Director of Airbus Defence and Space UK said. "We will be working hand in hand with our Australia partners and Defence to identify the key skills, technologies and strategic advantages that this partnership can deliver to enable Australia to become a global space player in the next decade.”

Airbus has operated the UK Ministry of Defence’s (MOD) Skynet 5 military satellite communications (milsatcom) programme since 2003. Airbus has been involved in all Skynet phases since 1974, designed and built four Skynet 5 satellites and is currently building the next generation milsatcom spacecraft Skynet 6A. 

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