3 mins read 03 Jul 2020

Indigenous Ground station Goes Live

A new Indigenous-operated ground tracking facility that will be used to assist in space communications, has just come online near Alice Springs, connecting the booming Australian space sector with Indigenous people's land, jobs, and opportunities. 

Credit: Eckistica Ltd.

Australia’s first Indigenous satellite ground tracking station near Alice Springs has come online, with local Indigenous businesses working to increase Indigenous representation within Australia booming space economy.

The new ground tracking stations opening the door for Indigenous Australians to be leading participants in the space and satellite sector, helping support both government and civilian objectives such as Earth Observation (EO) imaging for disaster management, environmental monitoring, and search/rescue operations.

Funding for the two state-of-the-art commercial satellite ground stations in the Northern Territory was provided by Indigenous Business Australia (IBA), with IBA Chairperson Eddie Fry emphasising the importance of this opportunity for both 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”

“The technology has many commercial applications, such as for remote asset management, agriculture, carbon abatement, insurance, finance, and mining,” he said.

The facility is being developed and managed through Indigenous Companies - the Centre for Appropriate Technology (CfAT) and its subsidiaries Ekistica Ltd and CfAT Satellite Enterprises, as well as Ingerreke Commercial who laid the concrete foundations in December. The facility forms part of a global network of ground stations operated by Europe’s Viasat Inc. called Real Time Earth.

Existing satellite tracking infrastructure. Credit: Dylan Anderson/ABC.

CfAT is an Aboriginal company, with 50% Aboriginal workforce, established in the 1980s, that operates across regional and remote Australia delivering infrastructure and technology solutions mostly to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, providing service and infrastructure platforms that allow people to maintain their relationship with country.

We reported on the progress of CfAT in March this year when the GeoTracker instruments were being developed, with the new facility now coming online having the potential to reduce the latency for high-resolution earth observation imagery down from hours or days, to just minutes. The result will be to enhance Australia’s capability in disaster management (such as cyclones and bushfires), environmental monitoring, border protection and search and rescue, as well as strategic uses such as monitoring the economic impacts of pandemics like COVID-19 from space.

CfAT CEO Peter Renehan said, ‘This facility brings together our mission of engagement and people, innovation and excellence – and puts Aboriginal people at the forefront of Australia’s growing space sector.

‘While many have been locked down from COVID-19, our build has been full speed ahead with an Aboriginal-owned project management team and support crew that assembled the antennas.

‘There is currently a limited supply of suitable earth observation ground stations in Australia. Here in Alice Springs, we are strategically located to take advantage of this fast-growing market. The site is so perfectly located that we will be able to downlink imagery across the whole of Australia’s land and waters.

‘We are very excited about the future of this technology which we know has the potential to benefit many of our communities, like our Indigenous rangers who look after land and sea country and can use high-resolution imagery from space to do their jobs.