Alice Springs Antenna Upgrade

The upgraded Alice Springs antenna was commissioned by Minister for Resources and Northern Australia Senator Matt Canavan at a ceremony at Parliament House in Canberra on 9 November 2016.

The Australian Government has invested more than $4 million to upgrade the Alice Springs antenna, securing Australia's access to essential satellite data into the future.

The antenna enables Geoscience Australia to collect data from a number of Earth monitoring satellites, including Landsat 7 and 8, which provide information to detect changes in land use over time and other useful environmental data. This data is used by government, industry, education and research, contributing billions of dollars to the Australian economy.

The upgrade allows the US Geological Survey (USGS) Mission Operation Centre located at NASA to send command and control signals to current and future Landsat satellites via the facility at Alice Springs, as well as receive status updates on a satellite's position and 'state of health'.

The antenna is part of Geoscience Australia's Alice Springs Ground Station, which also includes a second antenna and associated infrastructure. This ground station is one of three forming a global Landsat Ground Station Network.

Geoscience Australia's Alice Springs antenna has played a key role in supporting international satellite programs since its construction in 1979.

Geoscience Australia commissioned an artwork to apply to the antenna's reflector surface to recognise the role of the Arrernte people as custodians of the land where the Alice Springs antenna is located.

Working with the Centre for Appropriate Technology Ltd, a not-for-profit Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander company, a conceptual design of an artwork by local Arrernte artist, Roseanne Kemarre Ellis, was applied to the antenna.

The artwork, Caterpillar Tracks, highlights the link between the Arrernte people's mapping of their land, and the role of the antenna in collecting satellite imagery of the Earth.

Caterpillar Tracks

In the Arrernte Aboriginal people's creation story, the Alice Springs region was created by giant caterpillars. These creatures become the ridges of the East and West MacDonnell Ranges that shelter the town of Mparntwe (Alice Springs).

This painting shows the landscape and describes the location of bush tucker, hunting grounds, water holes, travelling routes and other features.

The Artist - Roseanne Kemarre Ellis

Roseanne was born in Katherine, Northern Territory and from a young age has lived in Amoongana community near Alice Springs. Her passion for painting comes from her father, Michael Jakamarra Nelson, the famous Central Australian artist whose work is represented in a mosaic in front of the Parliament House in Canberra. Roseanne began painting in 1992 in Papunya, Northern Territory, influenced by her father as she watched him mixing colours and applying paint on canvas every day. Her children and grandchildren are the reason she continues to paint, to show them her stories and their heritage.

The Alice Springs antenna collects satellite imagery of the Earth, known as Earth observations from space (EOS) data, which has wide ranging benefits for the Australian community and globally.

The upgraded facility at Alice Springs is an important element of Geoscience Australia's Earth observation program, which has collaborative agreements with a number of international satellite operators.

EOS data delivers significant economic returns for Australia. The total direct economic benefit from the use and application of EOS data is $860 million (2015) and economic modelling suggests this will rise to $1.33 billion by 2025.

EOS data is used to respond to natural disasters such as bushfires, cyclones and floods, monitor land use, develop agriculture, discover new mineral and energy resources and ensure our water security.

This satellite data is available to governments and researchers around the world, enabling other countries to see similar benefits.

By collaborating in the United States Landsat Program, Geoscience Australia has secured Australia's access to more than 40 years of EOS data, the longest continuous space-based record of Earth in existence.

As new satellites and technologies emerge, the Alice Springs Ground Station will continue to add to Australia's growing archive of satellite imagery, and applications for its use to continue to grow.

USGS and NASA

As a country that does not have its own Earth observation satellites, Australia collaborates internationally to secure access essential satellite data.

Geoscience Australia has worked with NASA and the United States Geological Survey (USGS) in the field of space science since the 1970s.

The Alice Springs facility is a testament to this enduring partnership - providing Australia access to critical satellite data and ensuring Geoscience Australia can continue to make important contributions to the field of space science.

Geoscience Australia recently signed an agreement with the USGS whereby it uses the Alice Springs antenna to collect raw data from USGS satellites, processes the data using USGS-provided software and shares the data in exchange for open access to the data.

This gives Australia access to a 40-year record of imagery documenting changes to our continent and our landscape.

Centre for Appropriate Technology

The antenna resides on land owned by the Centre for Appropriate Technology (CAT). CAT is a not-for-profit Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander company that works with communities, organisations, governments and the private sector across central and northern Australia.

Geoscience Australia subcontracted the antenna's upgrade and facility management to CAT, aligning with the Australian Government's Northern Australia focus. Geoscience Australia partnered with CAT for this project utilising Commonwealth Procurement rules for Indigenous companies, in support of the Government's targets for working with Indigenous businesses.