Yesterday, Australia and the United States signed the Space Tracking Treaty, which extends US ownership and use of ground stations in Australia.
The treaty was signed on the morning of 18th October in Washington DC at the Australian Embassy, between Australian Ambassador to the US Joe Hockey and Robert Lightfoot Jr, Acting Administrator of NASA.
Although details of the treaty have not been revealed, the Australian Ministry for Industry has stated it “covers civil space facilities owned by NASA and located within Australia, including the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex (CDSCC) at Tidbinbilla, as well as facilities in Western Australia and the Northern Territory”.
NASA has been working with the Australian government for the past 57 years, since the first space communication and tracking agreement was signed between Australia and the United States on the 26th of February 1960.
Since then, NASA has depended on several ground stations in Australia, especially the CDSCC, which contributed to missions such as the Mariner 4 flyby of Mars, Voyagers 1 and 2, Curiosity, and New Horizon.
Said Acting Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, Michaelia Cash, “Our space collaboration with the United States of America began in 1957 with the establishment of a radio tracking facility in Woomera and was formalised in 1960 with the signing of a bilateral treaty on space vehicle tracking.”
She added, “Australia plays an integral part in space vehicle tracking having assisted in almost all of NASA’s human and robotic missions to space.”
The Minister commented that the Space Tracking Treaty comes at an historic moment, as Australia prepares to establish its national space agency.
She said, “The signing of this treaty comes at a very important time in the development of the space industry in Australia given the Turnbull Government’s commitment to establish a national space agency.”