GEO Satellite Investment for EO

Investigating the technological and market landscape for the Bureau of Meteorology on the feasibility of implementing an Australian meteorological satellite program. 


The Challenge

The Bureau of Meteorology is one of Australia’s largest consumers of Earth Observation data, with 96% of the data ingested into now- and forecasting models every day sourced from international satellite missions. Despite the critical role that satellite data plays in improving forecast accuracy and the large social and economic impacts of these forecasts, the Bureau does not own or operate any Australian meteorological satellites – something that is being recognised more and more by international partners. This lack of Australian capability poses a risk to the Bureau’s operations and all Australians that rely on their data products and forecasts. Shifting the Bureau’s role from one of a consumer to that of a contributor of data into the international Global Observing System will reduce the risk that Australia does not have access to the data it needs in the future. However, there are a huge range of options for satellite missions, and determining what questions to ask, who to consult, and how to select the most effective option for Australia and the Bureau posed a challenge to an organisation that has not historically considered their own satellite missions in detail previously.  



The Bureau of Meteorology contracted Shoal Group as the lead organisation for this work. Shoal Group subcontracted FrontierSI to perform the bulk of the work, with FrontierSI subcontracting Symbios to provide their international experience with Earth Observation missions. FrontierSI led the completion of the Environmental Scan, consultations, and final green paper report, with Shoal Group responsible for the overall Program Management. The Bureau provided expert input and review for all documents and project activities. 


The Solution

Initially, the project was focused on scoping potential geostationary satellite programs, as directed by the Bureau. This effort was broken into two major phases; an Environmental Scan and consultations in the first phase, followed by the creation of a green paper outlining the potential pathways determined through the Environmental Scan and consultations. This high-level approach was followed throughout; however, it became evident that focusing only on a geostationary solution, or even any particular set of solutions, was inappropriate at this early stage. The scope of work was therefore altered partway through the project to look at the broader risk of Australia not having access to the required meteorological data in the future, and potential controls of that risk.  

The Environmental Scan report was completed by FrontierSI, and summarised research across the following topics: 

  • Technology trends in geostationary meteorological sensor systems, including satellite system technologies and applications for meteorological satellite data 
  • Review of international and domestic industry capability to design, build, test, launch, and operate meteorological satellites 
  • Investment, funding, and regional impacts of geostationary sensor systems 
  • Key risk and vulnerabilities of a geostationary sensor system 

The Environmental Scan report was written before the shift to the broader risk-based scope, and hence focuses mostly on geostationary satellite systems. There are some discussions of LEO or other satellite solutions included in the report, however, in particular in reference to Australian industry capability. The Environmental Scan report includes a comprehensive list of historical and future geostationary meteorological satellite missions. 

Consultations were conducted with international partners and domestic stakeholders, as identified by the Bureau. International consultations were conducted either by Symbios or the Bureau, with all domestic consultations conducted by FrontierSI and Shoal Group, with Bureau representatives attending. Two reports documenting the outcomes and learnings from each of the international and domestic consultations were produced. 

Finally, a green paper was authored by FrontierSI to prompt discussion as to whether an Australian satellite program policy should be pursued, and what it could look like. The green paper is centred around a short analysis of the major risk identified, and then summarises the major potential solution pathways identified through the Environmental Scan and consultations. A number of thought-provoking questions are posed to the reader throughout, following green paper examples from the UK. The green paper will be retained by the Bureau for the time being and will be published to a broader audience when the Bureau feels there is appropriate appetite for such a satellite program. 



The primary impact of this work has been to increase awareness at the Bureau of options for a meteorological satellite program, questions to be considered when establishing such a program, and the importance of gathering user requirements before determining solutions. The Bureau has commented that before this work was completed, they had no unified document or source of reference for an Australian meteorological satellite program, and now they have the basis of a future policy. The green paper in particular will be used to generate discussion on the most effective policy, while the Environmental Scan, consultation reports, and green paper together will be used to increase Bureau staff knowledge of meteorological satellite missions and industry capability.  



To learn more, contact FrontierSI at or connect with Project Manager, Alex Linossier, at