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Satellites needed for NBN

Artist's impression of an Optus satellite in orbit

With Australia's increasing reliance on space technology, including the NBN, there is a need for 2 or 3 extra satellites.

  • Australia is heavily reliant on space technology
  • 2 or 3 extra satellites will be needed to provide services

WHEN WE THINK OF SPACE, most of us think of rockets and robots and, whether or not we realise it, these and other space technologies form a fundamental part of our lives.

With Australia’s investment in new communications satellites as part of creating the National Broadband Network (NBN), it is more important than ever to understand the benefits of space technology.

Dr Rosalind Dubs, Chair of the Australian Government’s Space Industry Innovation Council, stresses the importance of driving productivity and innovation through space technologies.

“It’s estimated the global space market will be worth one trillion dollars by 2020,” Dr Dubs said. “If Australian companies can capture just a few percent of this business, this would represent a worthwhile contribution to the national economy, strengthen national self-reliance and deliver broader spin-off benefits.”

Dr Dubs said while most of the NBN’s high speed internet will be delivered by fibre optic cables, 3 to 4 per cent of Australians live in regional areas where this would be prohibitively expensive. Two to three satellites will be acquired to provide high-speed internet services (around 12 Mbps) where the fibre optic cables or wireless will not reach.

These new satellites will make the NBN an important milestone in Australia’s space infrastructure. They are expected to provide opportunities for the development of Australian space capabilities and downstream applications.

Space provides value for money

“International experience suggests that every $1 million invested in space-borne capability results in around $6 million of downstream services application revenue,” Dr Dubs said. “For example, think of the many GPS-receiver and accurate positioning-related businesses that have grown out of the US Global Positioning System.”

Australia from space

The space sector is likely to become crucial for Australia in the coming decade.

Australians in remote areas will reap huge benefits from the NBN’s satellites, but satellite technology can also improve city dwellers’ mobile internet, phone and television services, and improve the ability for navigation devices to receive GPS signals in high rise cities where some satellites are out of view.

Beyond these day-to-day benefits, satellites collect data about weather, climate, oceans, land, geology, ecosystems, and natural and human-induced hazards.

“Integrating this data into real-world applications is essential if we are to effectively manage our planet and its resources, particularly as we tackle natural disasters and climate change,” Dr Dubs said.

Crucial for Australia

Satellites provide us with infrastructure that can improve our quality of life and increase our knowledge of the world around us. But to do so, both government and commercial organisations must invest in building expertise, strengthening capabilities, and developing real, practical applications for satellite data. The payoff will be worthwhile.

“Space capability is much like IT. It is an enabling technology that will lead to productivity increases,” Dr Dubs said. “The Australian Government has recognised that more active involvement in the space sector is likely to become crucial for Australia in the coming decade, not just for defence and national security reasons, but because everyday life depends more and more on satellite services.”

To find out more about Australia’s space-related activities or the Space Industry Innovation Council, visit

Adapted from information issued by SIIC.

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Aussie satellite anniversary

Launch of Aussat A1

The Aussat A1 satellite launched from the payload bay of space shuttle Discovery on August 27, 1985, to become the first Australian-owned and -operated communications satellite.

On August 27, 1985, the Aussat A1 satellite silently climbed from the payload bay of the space shuttle Discovery, on it’s way to becoming the first Australian-owned and -operated telecommunications satellite.

Twenty-five years later, and it would be hard to imagine a world without satellite communications. We rely upon them for our day-to-day communications, plus TV, radio, internet, banking services and so on.

The Australian federal government established the government-owned satellite company, Aussat, in 1981. Three A-class satellites were launched during the mid- and late-1980s.

In 1991, the government sold Aussat into private hands, and Optus was born (being a consortium of major domestic companies plus two overseas telecommunications carriers).

Three new satellites were planned; the first, B1, was launched in August 1992. The launch of B2 followed in December 1992, but it was destroyed shortly after launch when the Chinese rocket exploded. The exact cause was never determined. B3 was successfully launched in August 1994.

Artist's impression of an Optus D satellite

Artist's impression of an Optus D satellite in orbit.

One C-class satellite was launched in June 2003, partly funded by, and heavily used by, the Australian Department of Defence.

There are now three D-class Optus satellites on orbit, the most recent being D3, launched in August 2009.

“The geographical size of Australia and the vast distance between some of our remote and regional communities means that satellite has always and will continue to make sense for Australia,” said Paul Sheridan, Director of Optus Satellite.

“Optus is very proud of our Aussat heritage and with 25 years of experience, we continue to be the leading provider of satellite services across Australia and New Zealand.”

Adapted from information issued by Optus.

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