Unexpected satellites, inclement space weather and space junk were all factors Army’s first “space team” confronted during the Sprint Advanced Concept Training exercise in Adelaide from August 1-5.
CAPTION: Corporal Jackson Smart, right, takes part in the space training exercise with Air Force air surveillance operator Leading Aircraftman Jasper Gleadhill at the Australian Space Discovery Centre. Story by Sergeant Matthew Bickerton. Photo by Leading Aircraftwoman Annika Smit.
Corporal Jackson Smart, from 1st Signal Regiment, took part in the military-led exercise, which comprised simulated and real-world scenarios.
“As well as the simulated exercise, Russia launched a satellite during the exercise, in real time,” Corporal Smart said.
“We were able to plot the trajectory of the Russian launch using commercial sensors and quickly identify its initial orbit.”
The data came from a civilian agency that scours social media looking for signs of upcoming launches around the world – which is how the Army team discovered the Russian rocket launch.
The training focused on resources to help Defence understand the space domain and how activities there can affect operations below.
“In Army, we rely heavily on GPS and satellite communications, so it’s important we’re aware of the potential threats that could stop us from using those technologies,” Corporal Smart said.
Corporal Smart said space debris posed a risk to active satellites and some space-faring nations were developing capabilities to target satellites.
“It’s not just threat actors we need to consider, but space weather,” Corporal Smart said.
“Solar flares can erupt from the sun along with coronal mass ejections, which can also affect satellites.”
Army provided three network engineers who had previously completed the Defence Space Overview Course to work as orbital analysts during the exercise.
Before the exercise, the Army team spent a week training in orbital mechanics to understand space domain situational awareness.
Defence Space Command participated, along with Australian industry and academic partners to enhance cooperation.
Commander Defence Space Command Air Vice Marshal Cath Roberts has set the development of Australian Defence Force joint space professionals as a workforce priority and supported Army’s participation in meeting this goal.
She said it was an opportunity for triservice personnel to collaborate with leading space operators from the Defence and commercial sectors.
“Not only does this enhance domestic space expertise, but it increases the understanding of the criticality of space across the joint force, and supercharges collaborations with allies,” Air Vice Marshal Roberts said.