Wednesday, 01 July 2020 22:26

Alice Springs gets first Indigenous satellite ground station

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Alice Springs gets first Indigenous satellite ground station Courtesy IBA

Two state-of-the-art commercial satellite ground stations have been built in Alice Springs with funds from Indigenous Business Australia, the first such facility on Aboriginal-owned land.

A statement from IBA said the project had been built, managed and owned by Indigenous firms: the Centre for Appropriate Technology and its subsidiaries Ekistica and CfAT Satellite Enterprises, as well as Ingerreke Commercial which laid the foundations in December.

The facility is part of a global network of ground stations operated by Viasat called Real Time Earth.

The IBA said the new infrastructure could reduce the latency for high resolution earth observation imagery from hours or days to just minutes.

This would 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 chief executive 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 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.

"CfAT have also been awarded the facilities maintenance contract by Viasat, which will generate on-going Indigenous employment and training opportunities for our community.’

IBA chairperson Eddie Fry said the opportunity was important 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," he said..

"The technology has many commercial applications, such as for remote asset management, agriculture, carbon abatement, insurance, finance, and mining. Strongly aligned with the priorities for the Australian Space Agency, this investment puts CfAT on the map as a commercial technology innovation hub.

"This is just the beginning and we can see a bright future for CfAT which is well-positioned to become one of Australia’s leading participants in the satellite and space industry.

"Not only will this facility generate commercial returns for Indigenous Australians, it will create wider industry opportunities for the Northern Territory. CfAT will invest in training Aboriginal people in maintaining the facility and build its capacity for bringing innovative technology-based programs to Aboriginal people in the region."

Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt said the launch demonstrated how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people could play leading roles in the nation’s innovation, as they had done for more than 60,000 years.

"Indigenous Australians hold a powerful economic force through their connections with land, culture and community,” he said.

"This exciting project is a prime example of the power of country to help deliver commercial returns through technology, employment and career opportunities."


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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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