Dr Ben Greene began working in the Australian space industry not long after the Moon landing in 1969.
As a young research scientist with the Australian Government, Ben was witness to some major scientific breakthroughs early in his career. He was part of the teams that discovered how to measure continental drift and gravitational fields using satellite data.
Later, he was promoted to be director of Australia’s space program. It was a time of fierce competition between countries, confidence in the benefits of technology, and an implicit belief that space held many answers for the future of humanity. “I worked on a significant number of space programs in a very short period of time,” Ben says. “In 15 years, I had half a dozen programs under my belt. A full career wouldn’t cover that today.”
In the mid-80s, Ben’s government branch was privatised to form a company, Electro Optic Systems (EOS). For nearly four decades, EOS has been a world leader in using lasers to locate and track objects in orbit such as satellites and space debris. This is important to help prevent collisions in space and, ultimately, to start cleaning up the rubbish.
Ben has been the head of EOS since its inception, growing the company from a staff of five on day one to over 500 today. The amount of debris EOS tracks has also multiplied – from 1,000 pieces in the early days to 20,000 now. “To put that in perspective, we're tracking as many pieces as the whole world was tracking 20 years ago,” says Ben.
EOS was also the primary industry partner for the Space Environment Research Centre (SERC). Researchers at SERC developed technology that can gently nudge a class of space debris called HAMR objects out of low earth orbit using lasers. (HAMR stands for high area-to-mass ratio – in other words, objects with large, flat surfaces.) The objects then burn up in the atmosphere. Ben says that this technology could allow Australia to mitigate up to 15% of the space debris problem.
“We are part of the new wave of countries that wants to use space going forward, so we want to be a contributor to the space environment.”
- Ben trained as an electrical engineer, completing his degree at the University of Queensland in 1972.
- He then joined the Australian Government’s science, technology, engineering and space program as a research scientist.
- In the mid-70s Ben became the leader of Australia’s space program.
- In 1980, Ben completed his PhD in Physics at the University of Hull (UK).
- In the mid-80s, a company called Electro Optic Systems was formed to take over some of the government’s space projects. On his first day as Director of EOS, Ben literally walked across the road from his old job to his new one.
- In 2014 EOS joined industry and research partners to form the Space Environment Research Centre (SERC). Over five years, SERC produced world-leading technology to deal with the problem of space debris.