Indigenous Australians to lead Alice Springs ground station

By on 12 June, 2019

An existing antenna at the Alice Springs site, painted by local Arrernte artist Roseanne Kemarre Ellis. Image: Geoscience Australia.

A new ground station for small satellites to be built in Alice Springs will be led by the Centre for Appropriate Technology (CfAT), Aboriginal not-for-profit science and technology company, in partnership with Viasat and Indigenous Business Australia.

Under the partnership, CfAT will build and own the multimillion dollar Real-Time Earth (RTE) facility through its wholly owned commercial subsidiary CfAT Satellite Enterprises Pty Ltd.

According to material released by the Indigenous Business Association, the investment is aligned with priorities for the Australian Space Agency, and the facility will be used to track low earth orbiting (LEO) satellites for earth observation in scientific research, environmental monitoring, and commercial applications.

Viasat has indicated that the proposed facility will be a hybrid space and ground network intended to reduce latency and improve affordability for LEO satellite operators.

Peter Renehan, CfAT chairperson, said that the facility unites the centre’s mission of engagement and people, innovation and excellence while putting Aboriginal people at the forefront of Australia’s burgeoning space sector.

“CfAT exists to provide people in regional and remote Australia with options for maintaining their relationship with country. We do this by providing technologically innovative solutions to infrastructure challenges with digital connectivity as a core focus of the company’s work,” he said.

“This state-of-the-art development will provide a positive contribution to the local economy through employment opportunities for local businesses during each phase of construction as well as ongoing jobs for local Aboriginal people once operational.”

IBA Chairperson Eddie Fry also emphasised the importance of this opportunity for the Australian space industry and the Indigenous community.

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people own or control significant areas of land in remote areas where there is limited economic potential. This first of its kind development on Aboriginal land gives the community both economic and social returns,” he said.

The facility will be built at CfAT’s Heath road site in Alice Springs, and will contain two Viasat full-motion antenna systems and associated infrastructure, to complement other Viasate RTE (real time Earth) sites in Europe, North America and South America.

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