In October 1903, the New York Times famously published an article predicting that human flight would not happen for “1 million to 10 million years”.
Just 9 weeks later, the Wright brothers achieved the first sustained, controlled flight in a powered aircraft. From that point on, aviation took off – particularly in the military. In 1912, the Australian Flying Corps became a branch of the Australian Army. By 1921, the aviation elements of the Army and the Navy had merged to form the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF).
The launch of Australia’s Defence Space Command means history might repeat itself. At present, Defence Space Command is a joint formation, comprised of the Air Force, Army and Navy working together. But it could become a new service of its own one day.
"If you’d asked someone in 1911 if Australia would have an Air Force in only 10 years, they would have laughed in your face. Times move even faster now than they did a century ago. There is a real chance that the space domain could have its own service next decade,” says Lieutenant Colonel Cameron Porter. “That's the bit that makes me excited about this moment in history.”
Cameron has been part of Defence Space Command since the beginning and aspired to be a ‘space guy’ from early in his career. After graduating from Duntroon, he asked to join the Royal Australian Corps of Signals. This corps is home to the Army’s telecommunications, information systems and electronic warfare capabilities, which are critical to land combat in the information age.
Part of Cameron’s training at the School of Signals was a week-long course on satellite operations. “It was one of my favourite parts of the training, because it was pure space stuff,” he says. “I loved the expeditionary nature of satellite communications. Connecting to a satellite in space from anywhere on Earth and talking back to Australia. The science behind satellites has always been exciting to me.”
Cameron continued to work in satellite communications and electronic warfare for many years, including several deployments to the Middle East. He also decided to return to study in 2012 to do a postgraduate degree. He already had a Bachelor of Arts from the Australian Defence Force Academy (ADFA), but wanted to reinforce his skills with a technical qualification.
“I was a bit all over the place with my subjects in high school, trying to keep my options open,” he says. At university, Cameron started off doing a double major in politics and physics. “But I didn’t get through first year maths, which was a prerequisite for second year physics. I dropped science and pivoted completely to politics because I was doing well in it.”
He went back to ADFA and completed a Master of Engineering Science (C4ISREW). In Defence, C4ISREW stands for Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance and Electronic Warfare. Again, the subjects about space interested him most.
“For me, choosing space related subjects was a no-brainer,” he says. “I was happy to sacrifice anything from the program if it meant I got to do more space subjects. Things like space-based imagery and learning how to design satellites were by far my favourite parts of the course.”
Cameron’s status as a ‘space guy’ became official a few years later, when he moved to Army Headquarters to work on Defence Project 9358. Australia’s use of space needs protection from interference or attack. To do this effectively, we might need a space electronic warfare system – technology that can detect and deter such attacks. Defence Project 9358 is all about exploring options for this technology and recommending the best one.
He also spent some time in the US in 2019 working with the US Space Force as a representative of the Australian Defence Force. Australia is part of the Combined Space Operations (CSpO) Initiative, which brings together the militaries of 7 countries to support our mutual security in space. Defence personnel from the different countries often need to work together, sometimes on long-term exchanges. “It’s a very close relationship,” Cameron says.
Cameron then represented Army on Defence’s Space Domain Review in early 2021. He was a Major at the time, the most junior participant by far. But as luck would have it, he was in for a big career break.
“My Brigadier was unavailable. So was my Colonel. So was my Lieutenant Colonel. And so they said, hey Cam, you've got things to say, and you understand Army's equities in space now and into the future. You go along and represent Army at the review.”
The Space Domain Review set up the Defence Space Command, established in early 2022. After his promotion to Lieutenant Colonel, Cameron officially transferred there in April. Within days of his arrival, he became Acting Director of Strategic Partnerships and Communications. When his replacement arrived, he took on a new role helping to create a unified concept for how Defence operates in space.
Cameron’s advice to anyone hungry for a space career in Defence is to “be passionate, be patient and keep an open mind”.
“The immediate future is extremely exciting for me, because we're seeing how history rhymes,” he says. “We have an amazing opportunity to mimic the growth of the Royal Australian Air Force, which grew from the Army and Navy. And next, I hope, we will grow a Space Force from the Army, Navy and Air Force.”
As a big science fan, Cameron was a member of CSIRO’s Double Helix club when he was a kid. He also fondly remembers seeing Apollo 13 at the cinema with his dad back in 1995. “Going to the movies was a big deal for a kid in the ‘90s! It had a really formative effect on me.”
- As an undergraduate, Cameron studied at the Australian Defence Force Academy (otherwise known as UNSW Canberra at ADFA). He completed a Bachelor of Arts majoring in politics.
- He then completed his army officer training at the Royal Military College at Duntroon, graduating in 2006.
- Cameron then joined to the Royal Australian Corps of Signals. He completed his Regimental Officer Basic Course and Introduction to Satellite Operations in 2007.
- For 2 years, Cameron served as a junior officer in the Army’s electronic warfare unit. During that time, he held different command and staff roles in the regiment’s tactical electronic warfare squadron.
- Between 2008 and 2015, Cameron deployed to the Middle East. In Uruzgan Province in Afghanistan, he commanded the signals troop that gave satellite communications to Australia’s Mentoring and Reconstruction Task Force. He also prepared and planned the deployment of signallers to Iraq as part of Task Group Taji. Finally, he managed Defence ICT networks across the Middle East Region from Al Minhad in the United Arab Emirates.
- In 2012, Cameron returned to ADFA for post-graduate study. In 2016, he completed a Master of Engineering Science (C4ISREW) focusing on electronic warfare, space systems and cyberspace operations. (The acronym stands for Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance and Electronic Warfare.)
- Cameron spent three years in Army Headquarters developing Defence Project 9358. The aim of the project is to decide what technology the Defence Force needs to best protect Australia’s use of space in the future.
- In 2019, Cameron spent time in the US learning from the US Air Force Space Command as a representative of the Australian Defence Force. The US Air Force Space Command later became part of the United States Space Force, which launched in December 2019.
- In early 2021, the Department of Defence carried out a review of Australia’s operations in the space domain. Cameron contributed, representing the Army.
- Cameron transferred to Australia’s Defence Space Command in April, where he is a deputy director.