Telescope extends US alliance
Exmouth is set to become a critical player in protecting the National Broadband Network with construction to start on a facility to house a new high-tech telescope from the United States.
The Space Surveillance Telescope System will soon be moved from the US to Naval Communication Station Harold E. Holt.
A Department of Defence spokesman said construction of the SST site was due to begin in January 2017, with operating capability mooted for the end of 2019.
One of its roles will be to monitor space junk and other threats which may compromise important satellites, such as those supporting the NBN, alongside the nearby C-Band radar and other surveillance systems.
Federal Defence Minister Marise Payne said the telescope would bring a third facet of defence presence to Exmouth and a unique capability to Australia.
“I think (Exmouth) is recognised as being a very important location for a lot of the work we do internationally and I’m very pleased to see we’re going to have this telescope under way quite soon,” she said.
“It’s a recognition of the importance of the relationship and the extremely strategic alliance we have with the United States.
“I’ve made it very clear that I expect to see a provision in the contracting processes which addresses the engagement of local trades, local businesses as much as possible.”
Ms Payne said exact details for local content requirements were not yet available as the project was still in the planning process.
The SST will be able to quickly track objects at very long ranges and can scan large sections of the sky, significantly enhancing the space surveillance capability of Australia and the US.
Durack MHR Melissa Price said construction, upgrade and maintenance of the facility represented
significant economic investment and opportunity for Exmouth and surrounds.
“It’s my responsibility to ensure we have a good policy and local people from all across Durack actually get those opportunities,” she said.
“Defence has maintained a strong long-term relationship with the region and town of Exmouth for almost 50 years and this commitment will continue into the foreseeable future.”
Ms Price said businesses from across Durack should expect opportunities to provide ancillary services for projects at Harold E. Holt and the Learmonth Air Base coming out of the Defence White Paper.
Shire of Exmouth president Turk Shales said local businesses were looking forward to the opportunity to work on the facility.
“There’s a good two years’ worth of work for a lot people,” he said.
“The Shire is extremely thankful to the Member for Durack for her ongoing support of our region.”
Mr Shales said residents understood some of the more highly specialised tasks may have to be undertaken from companies outside of the region.