The Guardian • Issue #2051



Hannah Middleton

Brigadier General Anthony Mastalir, the head of US Space Forces Indo-Pacific, says it is critical to get the Deep-Space Advanced Radar Capability (DARC) system set up in Australia as soon as possible.

Speaking at the recent Sydney Dialogue organised by the notorious Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) Mastalir also claimed that Australia’s Defence Space Command is “moving aggressively” to bring DARC here “on the continent.”

DARC is designed to provide global monitoring of geosynchronous orbits in all kinds of weather and during daylight. The program calls for three transmit/receive sites, spaced at mid-latitudes around the world, to detect and track satellites.

Northrop Grumman won a $341 million contract to begin building DARC, with the first location in Australia planned for 2025.

A Northrop Grumman spokesman said: “While current ground-based systems operate at night and can be impacted by weather conditions, DARC will provide an all-weather, 24/7 capability to monitor the highly dynamic and rapidly evolving geosynchronous orbital environment critical to national and global security.”

Negotiations began in mid-2021 about where to locate the system in Australia and to finalise the required Technology Safeguards Agreement.

Back in December 2022 US Space Force Lieutenant-General Nina Armagno, while speaking at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, described this continent’s “prime” geography as essential for future space operations and added that Australia already has the natural advantage of its southern-hemisphere geography and potential launch sites close to the equator.

Meanwhile Lockheed Martin won Australia’s biggest space tender to build the country’s first sovereign military satellites to combat threats in space – a new Australian defence satellite communication system known as Joint Project 9102.

Expected to cost $4 billion, the new system will include new communications satellites, multiple ground stations across Australia, a communications management system and two new operations centres.

Dr Cassandra Steer, space law lecturer at the Australian National University’s Institute of Space, pointed out that there are about 3,800 operational satellites in orbit, and an estimated 128 million pieces of debris [smaller than 1 centimetre].”

Since its inception in January 2022, Australia’s Defence Space Command has formed the ADF’s first No.1 Space Surveillance Unit, which is based at RAAF Edinburgh, South Australia.

Defence Space Command was created to deliver the transformational change needed for an increasingly congested, contested and competitive space domain.

“Our mission is to prepare space power to secure Australia’s interests in peace and war,” Defence Space Commander Air Vice-Marshal Cath Roberts said.

“The space surveillance telescope in Exmouth was declared operational in September 2022,” she said. “We also achieved Initial Operational Capability for the space segment and ground infrastructure for a protected military SATCOM capability.”

With an increasingly congested, contested and competitive space domain and the increasing exploitation of civilian satellites for military purposes, we must remember that the 1967 Outer Space Treaty declared that the heavens are the province of all humanity, that there should be no private ownership and no military bases.

However, by 1990 the US had declared its aim of becoming “master of space”.

In 2016 then President Obama allowed corporations to claim private ownership of asteroids. The US began planning nuclear bases on the moon and has been creating satellite launch sites all round the world to achieve a first strike capability targeted against China and Russia.

The 1967 treaty banned weapons of mass destruction while US weapons systems deployed into or planned for space are weapons of selective destruction.

A Prevention of an Arms Race in Space (PAROS) treaty would complement and reaffirm the importance of the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which aims to preserve space for peaceful uses by prohibiting the use of space weapons, the development of space-weapon technology, and technology related to missile defence. The treaty would prevent any nation from gaining a military advantage in outer space.

Under the draft treaty submitted by Russia in 2008, states would commit to refraining from placing objects carrying any type of weapon into orbit, installing weapons on celestial bodies, and threatening to use force against objects in outer space. State Parties would also agree to practice agreed confidence-building measures.

However, PAROS has regularly been blocked by the US and Israel.

The Guardian can also be viewed/downloaded in PDF format. View More