Defence will establish a Space Division within the Royal Australian Air Force in early 2022, after being allocated $7 billion by the government last year to improve how it operates in space. The Department downplayed the move as a militarisation of space.
RAAF veteran Air Vice-Marshal Cath Roberts will be the inaugural head of the Space Division, which will include personnel from all areas within Defence.
Last year, the Morrison government gave Defence $7 billion over the next decade to improve the way it operates in space. The funding represents about 3 per cent of total defence spending over the next 10 years.
Space was identified as a focus area in the $270 billion Defence plan released last year by Prime Minister Scott Morrison, with a particular emphasis on satellite sovereignty and situational awareness.
Chief of Air Force, Air Marshal Mel Hupfeld said the funding would ensure Australian defence forces have better access to space, space services and geospatial information.
“Defence will need capabilities that directly contribute to outcomes in Space as a contested domain, however this does not mean that Defence encourages the militarisation of Space,” Air Marshal Hupfeld said in a statement Wednesday.
“All Space operations are conducted consistent with international and domestic legal obligations,”
The move follows the United States’ establishment of a Space Force in late 2019.
The US Space Force is a military service branch within the US Department of the Air Force that has around 5,000 personnel and operates 77 spacecraft.
Last year, the US Space Force received its own line budget of $15.2 billion for operations and maintenance, procurement, and R&D, with its personnel funding remaining within the US Air Force budget.
Air Vice-Marshal Cath Roberts will lead Australia’s new Space Division. She joined the Royal Australian Air Force in 1983 as an aerospace engineer at the Aircraft Research and Development Unit and has held more than 20 roles throughout her Air Force career.
“To reach for the stars and actually get there is a phenomenal feeling,” said Air Vice-Marshal Roberts.
“As an aero-space engineer I have always been fascinated by space – the ultimate high-ground.”
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