ADELAIDE, Australia, Sept. 29 (Xinhua) -- Australia has launched a 7.81 million U.S. dollar satellite program that will conduct audio and visual surveillance for the Australian Defence Force.
The Federal government announced on Friday that it gave the money to the University of New South Wales (UNSW) Canberra space team to conduct the project.
Christopher Pyne, Australia's defence industry minister, said the satellite investment represents the first project in the government's plan to invest more than 7.5 billion U.S. dollars into space-related technology in the next decade.
"Partnerships such as this are an integral element of our Defence Force," Pyne said in a media release on Friday.
"The expansion of space research and development into a regional academic institution provides defence with an opportunity to build, sustain and create momentum to develop our space professionals."
Russell Boyce, head of space at UNSW, said at the 68th International Astronautical Congress in Adelaide, the satellites would provide assistance to military spy planes as well as help detect asylum seeker boats headed for Australia.
"It's got an onboard capability to listen to objects on the surface of the earth, in particular we are interested in ships, so it's assisting the defence force in maritime surveillance," Boyce said.
Work on the first satellite, which weighs only four kilograms, has begun with it to be launched early in 2018.
Two more satellites, both twice the size of the first, are expected to be completed in 2019.
UNSW has partnered with the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) to complete the project.
Australia does not have the ability to launch its own satellites so once completed, the UNSW devices will be transported to the United States where they will be launched.
Boyce said that a number of organizations were working hard to develop a local ability to send satellites to space.
"We are yet to see how many or which of those might be successful, but there are some very credible people and approaches being taken," he said.
"If we can do that, that's going to be of enormous benefit for both commercial opportunities and also for defence and national security."