Mount Stromlo back in orbit

2 April 2004

Australia's Satellite Laser Ranging Facility at Mt Stromlo has re-opened after being devastated in the Canberra bushfires of 2003.

The fires destroyed the facility, part of an important global tracking system. There was no injury or loss of life in the event but the replacement value of the lost assets totalled $6.4 million.

Federal Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane highlighted the facility's significance to Australia and the global tracking system at its reopening on 1 April 2004.

"This event has major national significance and affirms Australia's position as a key member of the global satellite laser ranging network," Mr Macfarlane said. "The bushfires took away our capacity here in eastern Australia to supply key data in a satellite tracking network that spans the world," he said.

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.

New SLR facility at Mt Stromlo, 2004

New SLR facility at Mt Stromlo, 2004
© Geoscience Australia

"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.

Dr. Werner Gurtner, representing the International Laser Ranging Service (ILRS), travelled from Switzerland especially for the ceremony and presented the Minister with a plaque: In appreciation of dedicated service to the Satellite Laser Ranging community and for a remarkably rapid recovery from the fires of 2003.

The original facility operated since 1998. It is part of a network of 43 similar facilities around the world. Satellite laser ranging determines satellite orbits and monitors the behaviour of the Earth by measuring the distances between a laser telescope on the earth's surface and reflectors on passing satellites.

Read Geoscience Australia's media release.

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