Mt Stromlo's high tech gadgets rebuilt

01 April 2004

Geoscience Australia's equipment at the Mt Stromlo Satellite Laser Ranging Facility in Canberra has been rebuilt following the devastating bushfires in 2003. This equipment will continue to play a crucial role in assisting Australian and global industry into the future.

It was originally built in 1998 at a cost of $6million, and had to be rebuilt after it was completely destroyed in the firestorm that swept across the ACT in January 2003. The facility is linked to a network of 43 similar facilities around the world and is one of only six in the southern hemisphere and two in Australia.

Geoscience Australia's Deputy CEO and Chief of Spatial Sciences, Dr Trevor Powell, said the Mt Stromlo facility played a vital role assisting Australian government and industry.

"The Mt Stromlo Satellite Laser Ranging facility helps government and industries in the fields of mineral exploration, emergency services, transport, agriculture and navigation by providing reference information crucial to their operations. The rebuilding of this facility restores a crucial part of Australia's infrastructure," Dr Powell said.

The Satellite Laser Ranging (SLR) instrument at the facility measures distances between a laser telescope on the Earth's surface and mirrors on passing satellites.

The SLR transmits a short laser pulse through the telescope to passing satellites equipped with retro-reflectors. The time it takes for the pulse to travel from Mt Stromlo to the satellite and back again measures the distance between the Earth and the satellite with the precision of one centimetre.

The observations from the station are used to: accurately determine the orbits of satellites and in turn monitor the changing positions of the tracking stations, the rotation rate and orientation of the Earth in its orbit, the Earth's gravitational field, climate change, sea level rise, ocean circulation, tidal issues, the attraction with other bodies in the solar system, tectonic plate movements; track floating debris and communication links as well as measuring changes to the environment and earth's crust.

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