Demonstrating Australia’s growing space expertise, Australian space company Saber Astronautics has led the space traffic monitoring cell for the Pacific region for a recent joint civil and military space operations exercise with the US military.
The Sprint Advanced Concept Training (SACT) event was a US Space Force-run event to test combat readiness of its space forces using live data from real-world commercial and defence sensors to track objects in space. SACT also included a civil space component for the military to practice working with civilian and commercial space operators.
Based in Sydney, Saber Astronautics was recently chosen to establish the Australian Space Agency Mission Control Centre at the Lot Fourteen technology precinct in Adelaide.
For SACT, Saber operated from their Responsive Space Operations Centre (RSOC) in Sydney, conducting civil space traffic management while receiving additional requests from the military teams.
RSOC then tasked commercial sensor networks from companies from the USA, Japan, and Australia, and analysed changes to orbiting satellites. They received data from sensors, compared them to known and expected satellite positions, and identified manoeuvres for live spacecraft.
“SACT explored our actions as a national civil Mission Control Centre if there was a war in space,” Saber chief executive officer Jason Held said in a statement. “We’re not space warriors, we’re more space traffic cops, as the RSOC’s primary mission during the event is ensuring safety of flight.
“But as a national centre we also have a relationship to government so it is important to explore how we can work with other agencies and the broader multinational community if something goes wrong.”
SACT was initially a US-only exercise but, in 2019 Saber’s international presence allowed Australian integration with the US Space Operations Center for 24-hour operational readiness from Saber’s RSOCs.
The civilian SACT formed soon afterwards with companies from the USA, France, and Australia leading three regional cells, each responsible for their eight-hour windows.
Mr Held said, with the space industry set to triple in size over the next decade there was increased interest in a global space traffic management. “We’re about to leave the barnstorming era of the space industry and like the aviation sector, the space sector will also need cooperation, coordination and interaction between civil and military stakeholders worldwide.”