Australia's Department of Defense will manage the country's only fully owned and operational satellite FedSat from January next year.
Announcing the move, Australian Defense Minister Robert Hill said on Friday that Defense will manage the satellite until December 2008, extending FedSat's useful life to the scientific community by three years. It may also be possible to continue operating the satellite beyond that time.
Launched in 2002, FedSat is a small low earth orbit satellite that follows a near polar sun-synchronous orbit. It carries six payloads performing a variety of scientific and engineering research functions.
Hill said space systems have an ever-increasing benefit for Australia, including precision navigation, global communications and weather information.
"I am pleased that Defense can ensure that FedSat will continue to be of use to Australia," Hill said in a statement.
"It provides Defense with an opportunity to broaden its knowledge of spacecraft control and space experimentation," he said.
"Defense will use FedSat for a range of research and experimental activities. This could include radio propagation studies and magnetospheric observations supporting space weather science," he said.
"In addition, Defense personnel will gain valuable knowledge and skills in controlling satellites," he said.
He said Defense's management of FedSat will cost approximately 1 million Australian dollars (730,000 US dollars) over the next two years.
This is a relatively small cost compared to the expected benefits from the ongoing experimentation, according to the minister.