• Head of Air Force Capability, Air Vice-Marshal Cath Roberts AM, CSC, inside the Electro Optic Systems (EOS) control room at Mount Stromlo Observatory. (Defence)
    Head of Air Force Capability, Air Vice-Marshal Cath Roberts AM, CSC, inside the Electro Optic Systems (EOS) control room at Mount Stromlo Observatory. (Defence)

Australia’s new Defence space command officially began operations on 22 March, with Defence Minister Peter Dutton flagging the likelihood of a future US-style Space Force.

While acknowledging the new command would initially be modest compared to similar, well-established bodies operated by allies, including the US Space Force established in 2019, “it is a necessary endeavour with a view to protecting our national interests and our need for a Space Force in the future," Dutton stated.

The new command will centralise policy formation and capability planning, enhance cooperation with likeminded allies, and energise networking with Australia’s rapidly-growing commercial space sector.

The new entity, whose proposed establishment was announced in May 2021, comprises personnel from the three armed services, Defence, and industry contractors.

The command works alongside the Australian Space Agency (part of the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and resources); industry partners; and research and scientific institutions. 

The Commonwealth is investing $7 billion over the current decade to ensure Australia’s access to Space, Space services and geospatial information.

Australia and the US were strengthening their alliance to support mutual objectives in the space domain, Dutton stated.

“The Australian Department of Defence and the US National Reconnaissance Office have committed to a broad range of cooperative satellite activities which would expand Australia’s space knowledge and capabilities," the Minister disclosed.

“Our partnership will also contribute to the US National Reconnaissance Office’s pursuit of a more capable, integrated, and resilient space architecture to support global coverage on a wide range of intelligence mission requirements."

Defence Space Command is headed by Air Vice-Marshal Cath Roberts, a former head of RAAF capability, who told media Australia currently had no way to counter potential Chinese or Russian attacks on vital satellites without US help.

Defence was currently developing both kinetic and non-kinetic capabilities to deal with adversaries’ satellites without creating risky debris fields, she said.

Defence was also working on electronic warfare capabilities in space and was planning to launch a 100kg satellite next year to demonstrate new military capabilities. 

Later in the day, Dutton officially opened the Australian Signals Directorate’s (DSD’s) new Majura Park, Canberra facility which also houses personnel from Defence, the Federal Police, Home Affairs, and the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission.

China’s hard power expansion had been matched by the growth of its cyber forces, Dutton said.

“It’s not immediately apparent to Australians on a day-to-day basis, but it has got to a point where our authorities assess that China is now capable of mounting an unprecedented digital assault," he stated.

“The cyber espionage and reconnaissance which has been directed at our nation’s critical infrastructure, institutions, and networks can morph into something far more sinister.

“Spying is at one end of a spectrum of cyber activities. At the other end are cyber-attacks of such scale and sophistication they can be nationally, regionally, and globally debilitating.

“Australia so far has escaped the worst of this but make no mistake, Australia is in the crosshairs."

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