Space and Radio Science News and Opportunities—May 2022

Space and Radio Science News and Opportunities


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The National Committee provides this regular emailed newsletter containing updates from international scientific unions and committees and news related to the local scientific community, relevant funding opportunities, conferences and awards.

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News from the National Committee for Space and Radio Science

Australia in space: A decadal plan for Australian space science

In January the Academy released the report ‘Australia in space: A decadal plan for Australia space science’, prepared by an executive working group under the National Committee for Space and Radio Science and led by the committee chair, Emeritus Professor Fred Menk.

The strategy, developed through extensive stakeholder consultation over 18 months, makes three headline recommendations that are underpinned by an additional six recommendations. The report recommends:

  1. A national research priority in space science is established that aligns with civil and defence sovereign industry capability requirements, encourages discovery and innovation, and helps build capacity for national benefit and international impact.
  2. A Lead Scientist role is established in the Australian Space Agency with responsibility for space science policy settings. The role should include responsibility for providing strategic science policy advice, facilitating cross-sector engagement and international collaboration, and fostering capacity development initiatives.
  3. Commitment to and investment in an ongoing national space program, enabled by space missions that advance science, stimulate technical innovation, address national priorities, grow capability and inspire citizens.

Since its launch, the Academy has held more than 20 briefings with state and federal policymakers and government officials, chief scientists, industry representatives and members of the Australian and international diplomatic communities on the plan’s recommendations. A roadmap for implementing the recommendations is under development and will be released in the coming weeks.

The committee encourages members of the space science community to download the report and engage in conversation about the recommendations. Feedback and queries on the plan may be directed to the Academy, as may requests for virtual briefings.

Radio science vision paper

The committee is developing a white paper on the strengths of Australian radio science and the enablers needed to take advantage of current and upcoming opportunities in basic and applied research. The paper aims to highlight the increasing relevance of radio science and its applications to today’s industries. The development is being led by the committee deputy chair, Professor Paul Smith.

Developments in Australian space policy

Australian space science will benefit from multiple funding and policy announcements made since the start of 2022, including $1.2 billion for a National Space Mission for Earth Observation that will build sovereign capability in designing, manufacturing and operating Australian satellites, and the development of a Space Strategic Update by the Australian Space Agency over the next 18 months. These announcements come alongside the positioning of space as a priority in the recently released 2021 National Research Infrastructure Roadmap.

Read more

Alignment with ‘​Australia in Space’ recommendations

Recommendation 3:
Commitment to and investment in an ongoing national space program, enabled by space missions that advance science, stimulate technical innovation, address national priorities, grow capability and inspire citizens.

Recommendation 5:
A program of small space missions to advance knowledge and discovery, foster and leverage international collaboration, accelerate development of new technologies, applications and the skilled workforce, and help grow sovereign capability.

Recommendation 7:
An ongoing Earth observation satellite program led by the Australian Space Agency to mitigate data supply risk, address grand national challenges, grow capacity and contribute to global programs. As part of this, Australia should lead international efforts on global instrument and data calibration and validation.

Academy policy news

The Academy brings together leading Australian experts to consider and advise the nation on scientific issues, providing authoritative information and advice on current science, technology and emerging research to inform discussion and assist evidence-based policy development and decision-making.

Position statement: Science and Australia’s Positive Future

On 25 March 2022, the Academy released a position statement on Science and Australia’s Positive Future. In this statement, the Academy calls on the next Australian government to secure Australian jobs and Australian industries with science through:

  1. securing the scientific base through a long-term investment strategy for science
  2. advancing a cohesive, national approach to securing new jobs and industries through science and technology
  3. establishing robust and permanent mechanisms for independent science advice to inform policy across all of government
  4. undertaking a national whole-of-government review of the science and research system.

National Research Infrastructure crucial factor in research pipeline

The Academy welcomed the release of the Australian Government’s 2021 National Research Infrastructure (NRI) Roadmap. The roadmap makes many noteworthy recommendations to ensure Australia’s research infrastructure is poised to deliver long-term national benefit, particularly the recommendation made in successive roadmaps to establish an Expert NRI Advisory Group, that can deliver strategic advice on priorities, trends and opportunities.

Budget contains science measures but misses opportunity to secure research base

The Academy responded to the 2022–23 Australian Federal Budget, welcoming funding to improve the provision of evidence-based science advice to government, but noting missed opportunities to fund the fundamental science capabilities needed to support research translation and commercialisation goals.

News from national representatives

Contact Australian representative: Professor Michael Ireland

COSPAR’s objectives are to promote on an international level scientific research in space, with emphasis on the exchange of results, information and opinions, and to provide a forum, open to all scientists, for the discussion of problems that may affect scientific space research. These objectives are achieved through the organisation of Scientific Assemblies, publications and other means.

Professor Michael Ireland is the national representative for COSPAR. The main COSPAR event is the biannual assembly, which is next held in late July this year. If you have any national views or perspectives that are relevant to space science and could be brought up, please contact him directly. Professor Ireland is primarily involved in space research through technology and mission concept development for space interferometry, especially the LIFE space mission. He also leads the production of all-aluminium space compatible telescopes in the Optofab ACT node.

Contact Australian representative: Associate Professor David Pontin

SCOSTEP is an international organisation dealing with the coupled solar-terrestrial system. Australia’s voice in SCOSTEP policy and functioning is through a national representative to SCOSTEP, and Associate Professor Pontin has recently taken on the role. In this role, he will be working with the Australian Academy of Science, and particularly the National Committee for Space and Radio Science, to represent the views and perspectives of the Australian space/astrophysics community to SCOSTEP. As many of you will know, SCOSTEP is responsible for organising major international scientific programs, such as the current PRESTO (Predictability of the Solar-Terrestrial Coupling) program.

Associate Professor Pontin is an Associate Professor of Physics at the University of Newcastle, a role that he took up in 2019 following positions in New Zealand, the US and Scotland. His research is mainly in the field of astrophysical fluid dynamics, with a focus on applications in the solar atmosphere such as coronal heating, solar wind formation, and dynamic events driven by magnetic reconnection.

Contact Australian representative: Associate Professor Brett Carter

Associate Professor Brett Carter, from RMIT University’s SPACE Research Centre, is currently Australia’s representative for the International Association of Geomagnetism and Aeronomy within the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics (IUGG). As part of this role, he works with the National Committee for Space and Radio Science to ensure that the views and perspectives of Australia’s space and radio science community are represented on the international level. His research interests include the impacts of space weather on modern technologies, including satellite positioning applications and space situational awareness, and ionospheric physics more broadly.

Contact Australian representative: Dr Trevor James Harris

Dr Trevor Harris is the Australian national representative on Commission-G of Union Radio-Scientifique International (URSI), reporting to the National Committee for Space and Radio Science and the Australian Institute of Physics topical group Solar-Terrestrial and Space Physics (STSP). As the national representative he presents the views of the Australian Radio Science and ionospheric research communities and promotes Australia’s role at this premier international forum.

Dr Harris is an Adjunct Associate Professor with the Space and Atmospheric Physics Group at the University of Adelaide, where he researches ionospheric physics topics and advises and assists the postgraduate research program and student education. He is involved in the TIGER SuperDARN over-the-horizon radar project as well as promoting STEM, and specifically space research, within the local education system.

Contact: Dr Alina Donea

Dr Alina Donea was a member of the Working Group on Heliosphere science within the Academy’s National Committee for Space and Radio Science when preparing the 2021 strategic plan, and is the chair of the Solar and Space Terrestrial Physics of the Australian Institute of Physics to represent the views and perspectives of the local research community.

Dr Donea is a senior lecturer in astrophysics and applied mathematics at Monash University and a PhD supervisor in solar physics.  Her research field is focused on helioseismology, wave mechanics, acoustics of solar spots, magnetic fields, solar quakes and solar flares. Her recent interest is in modelling magnetic polarity distributions of solar activity from its helioseismic signatures and applying deep learning algorithms in the field of machine learning for solar imaging and space weather forecasting.

Science corner

ESA Solar Orbiter 83-MP image of the Sun. Image: ESA & NASA/Solar Orbiter/EUI team; Data processing: E. Kraaikamp (ROB)

Solar activity is on the increase.

To date, solar activity has exceeded predictions, with several intense X-class flares and coronal mass ejection events in recent weeks.

These can produce geomagnetic storms and space weather effects. One such event caused enhanced atmospheric drag, resulting in loss of 40 just-launched Starlink communications satellites in early February.

Community news

Funding and research announcements

  • A National Space Industry Hub opened in Sydney, housing the Space Industry Association of Australia, the government-backed NSW Space Research Network and the NSW Node of the SmartSat CRC.
  • The RMIT Space Industry Hub launched, with funding provided by the Victorian Higher Education Investment fund, SmartSat CRC, Amazon Web Services and industry engagement backing from FrontierSI.
  • The WA government is providing $6.5 million to support the Australian Remote Operations for Space and Earth (AROSE) and Curtin University’s Binar Space Program.

Upcoming conference dates

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