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Australia – US space cooperation

NASA treaty signing
19 October 2017

On 18 October 2017 Australia, represented by Ambassador Joe Hockey, and NASA, represented by acting Administrator Robert M Lightfoot, signed a new treaty agreement covering space vehicle tracking and communications facilities.

Australia has been a crucial partner to the US space program for more than half a century. In the 1960’s the Honeysuckle Creek tracking station and Parkes radio telescope  were critical to the success of the Apollo 11 mission to the moon.

Today, that cooperation continues with scientists and engineers from Australia’s CSIRO working together with NASA at the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex (CDSCC) to support communications for the landing of rovers on Mars, the arrival of New Horizons to Pluto, and the entry of Juno into orbit around Jupiter. The CDSCC is one of the largest NASA tracking and communication facilities outside the United States.

Acting Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, Michaelia Cash, said Australia continued to play a major role in NASA's exploration of space.

“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,” Minister Cash said.

“Australia plays an integral part in space vehicle tracking having assisted in almost all of NASA’s human and robotic missions to space.”

“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 bi-lateral treaty on space vehicle tracking.”

“This treaty remains the foundation for a continued cooperative program between Australia and the United States.”

The new treaty enables the continuation of the partnership between Australia and the US, to support NASA’s programs involving radio contact with human and robotic missions, scientific satellites and deep space probes exploring our solar system and beyond.  

In 2017, the Australian Government announced the creation of our own national space agency to support the development and application of space technologies and boost Australia’s domestic space industry.