Triple constellation: AUKUS in space

Author name: 
Citowicki, P
ANU National Security College

In this Policy Options Paper, Philip Citowicki puts forward a case for why Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom should work together, through AUKUS, to bolster their space capabilities using economies of scale and technology sharing.

Key points
  • The AUKUS security technology agreement could be used to bolster the resilience of space-based assets integral to the civil, commercial, and national security sectors of Australia, the United States, and the United Kingdom.
  • Through increased mutual access to critical technologies and improved engagement with commercial operators, the AUKUS partnership can help maintain minimum viable capabilities across each country’s space supply chains.
  • The reconstitution of space-based assets may be required in the wake of international security crises. If these assets are rendered inoperable, or cannot be replaced, the results would include catastrophic civil, commercial, and national security disruptions.
Key recommendations
  • The completion of the Australia-US Technology Safeguard Agreement (TSA) should be accelerated to enable US commercial space companies to operate from Australian spaceports and export space launch technology. The recently completed UK-US TSA can be utilised as a framework.
  • AUKUS partners should establish mutual spaceport access to support development. For example,NASA’s first ever use of a foreign commercial launch site was integral to supporting the development of Equatorial Launch Australia’s Northern Territory spaceport.
  • To ensure each country maintains the ability to reconstitute space-based assets, the AUKUS countries could collaborate more closely to create minimum viable capabilities and resilient supply chains for satellite manufacturing and launch vehicles.
  • AUKUS partners should work together to minimise the impact of military strikes or natural disasters on space-based assets, including by building new constellations of low-earth orbiting small satellites. This could bolster their collective resilience by diversifying away from dependency on existing assets.
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