Govt partnership opens door to global astronomy contracts

The federal government has signed an amendment to a partnership deal with the European Southern Observatory (ESO) allowing Australian industries and astronomy institutions to tender for contracts.

Melissa Price

ESO is a 16-member astronomy organisation hosted by Chile. It provides research facilities for astrologers, including access to a suite of leading edge optical telescopes and instruments, and aims to promote and organise international research co-operation.

The organisation this week announced the discovery of a new planet, Proxima d,orbiting the closest star to our solar system at a distance of about 4 million kilometres.

Australia signed a $129 million strategic partnership in 2017, which provides access to advanced telescopes at ESO’s La Silla-Paranal Observatory in Chile including the Very Large Telescope, the Very Large Telescope Interferometer and the New Technology Telescope.

It hopes to get full membership at the end of the strategic partnership.

Science and technology minister Melissa Price announced this week the goverment had signed off on an amendment to the strategic partnership which means local companies will now be able to bid for work under the ESO technology development program.

The program offers about $1.5 million in competitive contracts each year for the development of new technology including detectors, optical coatings and laser sources.

“This new facet of our Strategic Partnership with ESO will enable our highly-respected Australian institutions and businesses to contribute to global innovation and develop new technology,” Ms Price said in a statement.

The government has appointed an industrial liaison officer facilitate commercial opportunities local businesses and work with ESO to meet procurement needs.

Australia is recognised for its astronomical research and expertise in advanced adaptive optics and fibre-optic technology and the partnership with ESO is a bid to boost its optical astronomy industries.

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