Space and Radio Science News and Opportunities—July 2020

Space and Radio Science News and Opportunities

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1 July 2020

Update from the Chair of the National Committee for Space and Radio Science

In the last few months, the National Committee has kept busy with submissions in supporting a new 4-digit classification for space science in the ANZSRC Field of Research scheme, and on the Australian Space Agency’s International Space Investment initiative and the Moon to Mars program. The committee has been working around the challenges brought about by COVID-19 on development of the space science strategic plan, Australia’s Future in Space. The 10 working groups are now completing their recommendations and drafting of the plan will commence shortly, with a view to community consultation in August–September. The aim is to launch the plan online in late November. Details about the consultation phase and how to participate will be made available on our website closer to the date.

Conversations in Confinement

COSPAR invited its Associates and the broader constituency to provide comment input on how COSPAR can best fulfill its mission in the post-pandemic environment, and how the global space research community can use lessons learned from the crisis to help society meet future challenges such as climate change. See further details on the initiative, including responses submitted by the community.

Emeritus Professor Fred Menk, Chair of the National Committee for Space and Radio Science, submitted the following response on behalf of the committee.

‘I have read with great interest the recent Conversations in Confinement and, as Chair, submit on behalf of the National Committee for Space and Radio Science of the Australian Academy of Science the following observations.

The pandemic has profoundly affected all aspects of life and is testing social and economic resilience. The primary responses involve social distancing and tracking, and urgent efforts to develop effective treatments and vaccines. These approaches are underpinned by modern technology and robust, evidence-based science. Governments, policy makers and the broader community appreciate the need for informed voices from science, and the importance of international scientific collaboration. Furthermore, the road to economic recovery may be facilitated by new approaches, innovations and technologies to replace outmoded ways of working.

This changing landscape provides new opportunities for COSPAR, which was founded at the beginning of the space age. Since then space science has become fundamental to technologies and services underpinning modern societies and economies. Current trends include the growing importance of Earth observation and precise positioning and timing services, increased reliance of critical infrastructure on space-based services including commercial operators, vast increases in satellite numbers escalating on-orbit risk and impacting on astronomy, competition for spectrum space, development of space-based global communication networks, and militarization of space. Low probability high impact scenarios include asteroid impact, a Carrington event, and the Kessler syndrome, while climate change science relies upon satellite data.

The role of an impartial, international science-based body such as COSPAR is more important than ever. Alongside its mission to facilitate collaborative international science for public good, it can also provide science-based leadership and advocacy. This will assist national bodies in providing strategic guidance to agencies, scientists and policy makers, and in turn support implementation of multinational projects.’


Recipient of Harrie Massey Award Announced

Dr Alex Held (Director of the Centre for Earth Observation, CSIRO) has been awarded the COSPAR Harrie Massey Award. This prestigious international award recognises outstanding contributions to the development of space research, in which a leadership role is of particular importance. Dr Held will be presented with the award, which includes having an asteroid named in his honour, at the next COSPAR General Assembly, in Sydney (see below). Congratulations Dr Held!

International Space Investment initiative grants

The International Space Investment initiative supports strategic space projects that build relationships with international space agencies. Its purpose is to grow Australia’s space industry capability. Projects that would be supported under the scheme were announced recently and focus on SMEs or university groups aiming to develop new science-based technologies.

30 Voices on 2030: The Future of Space

The 30 Voices on 2030: The Future of Space report brings together 30 senior leaders of the space industry from around the world. Together they explore and imagine what a forward-moving and innovative space industry for the future would look like. The report makes interesting and sometimes provocative reading.

New mini-satellite constellation to help bushfire planning efforts

A new constellation of satellites is being developed to support emergency management. The first of these is being built at the Australian National University’s Institute for Space (InSpace). It will provide high resolution infrared images to target controlled burns that can help to reduce the frequency and severity of bushfires. See more about the new satellite technology

How space is helping in the global response to COVID-19

The effects of the pandemic on human behaviour and hence the environment are readily evident from space. The Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources has reported on some of the ways the space industry is enabling us to visualise the impact and stay connected.

UNSW satellite launch a giant leap in Australian space industry

joint Air Force and UNSW Canberra project has successfully launched a miniature satellite into space from Rocket Lab’s New Zealand site. The launch of the M2 Pathfinder satellite by UNSW Canberra supports Australia's development of advanced communications technologies.

Queensland-designed rocket system to boost Australian space industry

New technologies for a next-generation hybrid rocket that will launch small satellites into low-Earth orbits from 2022 are being developed in Queensland, thanks to a partnership between University of Queensland researchers and Gilmour Space. This supports Australia’s growing capability in manufacturing rockets and rocket components. Find out more about this development.

RAAF unit supports growing Australian and allied space missions

The Royal Australian Air Force’s No. 1 Remote Sensor Unit assisted with SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule launch to the International Space Station, revealing the nation’s growing space capabilities. Joining an international network of space surveillance sensor capabilities and operators during the launch, unit personnel monitored progress to ensure the upper stages of the Falcon rocket re-entered Earth’s atmosphere in the planned locations over the Indian Ocean. Read more about the expanding capabilities of the RAAF unit.

University of Adelaide research helps ESA to locate mystery space objects

Specialists from the University of Adelaide have supported the European Space Agency’s (ESA) latest public competition, which challenges ‘citizen scientists’ to combine AI with observations from low-cost telescopes to pick out mystery objects in and around geostationary orbit, thousands of kilometres above Earth.

Curtin University space data hub

A partnership between the WA Data Science Innovation Hub at Curtin University and the Pawsey Supercomputing Centre in Perth, has been awarded over $2 million in federal and state government funding to establish the Australian Space Data Analysis Facility. This will support researchers and SMEs with space data analytics and expertise, aiming to use space data to grow business benefiting industries ranging from agriculture and mining to maritime surveillance.

Australian collaboration to support US Space Force surveillance telescope

The new Space Surveillance Telescope (SST) operated by the Department of Defence in Exmouth, Western Australia, is nearing operational capacity. It was initially developed in the US for scientific research but has been relocated to Australia through a partnership between the Royal Australian Air Force and the USSF. The Australian Minister for Defence, Linda Reynolds notes that, “in an increasingly complex security environment, closer Australian–US defence cooperation will strengthen our respective capability advantages”. Once operational, the SST will become part of the global Space Surveillance Network, providing space domain awareness for the US, Australia and key allies. Find out more about this US and Australian collaboration.

Executive Order on Encouraging International Support for the Recovery and Use of Space Resources

The President of the United States signed an executive order on 6 April 2020 that affirms Congress’s intent that Americans should have the right to engage in commercial exploration, recovery and use of resources in outer space, consistent with applicable law. The order states that outer space is a legally and physically unique domain of human activity, and the United States does not view space as a global commons. To find out more about the executive order see the White House website or this article from the BBC that offers a summary of the consequences and intentions of the order.

Baking where no one has baked before

In January, astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS) produced the first food ever baked in space: a batch of cookies. Some experimentation was required to determine the ideal baking conditions! Find out more in this light-hearted and interesting read.

Scientific Committee on Solar-Terrestrial Physics (SCOSTEP) news

SCOSTEP Newsletter

The April issue of the SCOSTEP newsletter is now available. This issue contains articles on recent research, details on future events and updates on SCOSTEP initiatives.

Resource list of textbooks and monographs related to space weather and space weather science

SCOSTEP has collated a resource list of textbooks and monographs related to space weather and space weather science with information about the substantial body of texts and ancillary information about space weather published in the last 30 years. The list covers English-language texts and textbooks with ISBNs, and virtual texts that are freely available for access on the internet.


2020 international space weather medals

Nominations are currently open for the following three awards for internationally recognised achievements in the field of space weather and space climate. The  requirements for each of the medals are:

Kristian Birkeland Medal for Space Weather and Space Climate

The recipient of the Kristian Birkeland Medal must have demonstrated a unique ability to combine basic and applied research to develop useful space weather products that are being used outside the research community, and/or across scientific research disciplines. The work must have led to a better physical comprehension of the solar-terrestrial phenomena related to space weather, to a drastic improvement of space weather modeling, or to a new generation of instruments.

Baron Marcel Nicolet Medal for Space Weather and Space Climate

The recipient of the Baron Marcel Nicolet Medal must have demonstrated a unique ability to bind the space weather community in a spirit of peace and friendship, to educate within the space weather community, to go also beyond the space weather research community and address larger audiences.

Alexander Chizhevsky Medal for Space Weather and Space Climate

The prize rewards a young researcher (younger than 35 years, or having successfully defended her/his thesis within the last 6 years prior to the ESWW2020, i.e. after 30 October 2014) for outstanding achievements in space weather with an innovative approach. The six-year period is increased with the duration of any parental leave taken during the period.

Nominations for these medals may be submitted by individuals (although no self-nominations are allowed) and should be sent to The closing date for nominations is 6 September 2020.

2020 Space4Youth Competition

The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA), in collaboration with the Space Generation Advisory Council (SGAC), are holding the 2020 Space4Youth Competition.

Although the closing date for 2020 applications has passed, it is an excellent example of engagement and worth watching out for the next one. The competition is open to all students and young professionals who want to have their voice heard at the international space community level and to show how their generation can use space to contribute to achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals. 

Coming events

Impact of COVID-19 on coming events

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic many international events have been postponed. For a detailed list of events please go to the events section of the SCOSTEP newsletter.

COSPAR 2020 Scientific Assembly postponed

Due to the pandemic the 43rd COSPAR Scientific Assembly, due to be held in Sydney in August 2020, has been postponed  will now be held from 28 January to 4 February 2021. Preparations made for the 2020 event have been completely transferred to the new dates, and the event will be referred to as COSPAR 2021. To learn more about COSPAR 2021 in Australia go to the COSPAR website. Early-bird registration is open until 31 October 2020.

URSI GASS 2020 postponed to August–September 2021

The 33rd General Assembly and Scientific Symposium (GASS) of the International Union of Radio Science (Union Radio Scientifique Internationale-URSI) has been postponed and will be held in Rome, Italy in late August and early September 2021. For more information on the event please go to the event website.

EMS2020 cancelled

The European Meteorological Society Council has considered the potential impacts of COVID-19 on the EMS Annual Meeting planned for this September and has decided to cancel the event. There will be no online conference but instead the EMS is looking to host a one-day online event for early-career researchers in September 2020. More information on this event will be announced in future on the EMS website.

AGU Fall Meeting 2020

The AGU Fall Meeting is the largest gathering of Earth and space scientists in the world, and is held each December. Preparations are in place to prepare for different scenarios of presentation of sessions, keynotes and networking for the Fall meeting. Organisers are monitoring the COVID-19 situation and are taking time to prepare the December Event. For updates and more information proceed to the event’s information page, abstract submissions will open in June 2020 more information on important dates can be found on the event website.

Australian Institute of Physics National Congress 2020

The AIP National Congress scheduled to be held in Adelaide on 6–11 December has been postponed to the same dates in 2021. For further information see the AIP Congress site.

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