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Australia and UK sign world-first ‘Space Bridge’ agreement

Australia’s space agency has completed an agreement with its UK counterpart to increase cooperation and investment via the world’s first ‘Space Bridge’.

The agreement will see the two countries work together on space-related activities including sharing Earth observation data and collaborating on robotic and artificial intelligence.

The announcement comes more than a year after the proposed bridge was first announced at a Space Conference in Wales in September 2019.

Space Bridge Framework Arrangement was signed between the Australian Space Agency, the UK Space Agency and trade and investment agencies from each country. It comes as both countries jockey to position themselves as players in the global space industry.

Combining expertise

The Science, technology and investment Minister stated that the Space Bridge will combine Australian and UK expertise and strength and boost the domestic space industry.

“In addition to Australia’s strong manufacturing capabilities, our space priorities range from communications to Earth observation, as well as robotics and automation – all of which can offer support to the UK’s space ambitions,” she said in a statement.

The Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment said the agreement would boost trade and investment in the space sector.

He noted that this world-first agreement between Australia and the UK will reduce barriers to cooperation, address market-entry barriers and help space programs get off the ground faster, helping both countries to develop pioneering space programs and technology.

The Head of the Australian Space Agency said that the agreement was a step in the next phase of growth for the domestic civil space industry, while the UK Science Minister said it meant top space businesses and universities could now share best practice more effectively than ever.

Australia and the UK share a space heritage going back to the 1970s when the UK’s Prospero satellite launched from Woomera in South Australia.

According to another article from February 2021, the Australian Space Agency signed an MoU with Isro to increase cooperation across civil space activities.

The Australian consulate general’s office, while stating that the MoU covered an amendment to the Civil Space Cooperation (CSC) MoU, said this builds on the comprehensive strategic partnership between the two countries announced by the nations’ respective Prime Ministers in 2020.

In a statement, it was noted that there is now a broader range of both Australian and Indian agencies that can coordinate work under the MoU.

The agreement will encourage collaboration between both countries in the fields of civil space research, technology and capability development, educational activities and the use of outer space for peaceful purposes.

India and Australia had signed an MoU on CSC in 2012. In 2016, the Space Industry Association of Australia had a delegation participate in the Bengaluru Space Expo and in 2017, an Isro delegation participated in the International Astronautical Congress held in Adelaide, and the CSC MoU was given a formal implementing structure.

Geosciences Australia — a government agency carrying out geoscientific research — and Isro have arrangements to cooperate on satellite laser ranging and tracking of the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS) and on using Australian corner reflector infrastructure for calibration and validation of the Indian synthetic aperture radar systems.

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