The federal Labor government has secretly hosted US military group supporting the operation of new ballistic missile defence satellites while trying to dodge a backlash on the matter from the party's Left faction. The Defence Department has established that two elite teams from the US Air Force, and satellite tracking and communications equipment, were deployed in Australia in 2009 to give communication links to two new Space Tracking Surveillance System (STSS) satellites. In what was codenamed Project Crok, personnel from the USAF space test group/space test action squadron were deploy from Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico to HMAS Stirling south of Perth and Fort Direction near Hobart.
The US teams worked in Australia for more than two months to support the primary operations of two STSS satellites launch from Cape Canaveral on September 25, 2009. Details of the co operation have been out in secret US embassy cables get by WikiLeaks and provided exclusively to The Age. According to the US Air Force, the space test process squadron uses "highly mobile ground systems or particularly designed maritime platforms" to offer "telemetry, tracking and commanding from locations worldwide" in support of the testing and evaluation of US military space systems. Built by aerospace giant Northrop Grumman, the low-earth orbiting STSS satellites sense ballistic missile launches using infrared sensors.
They are intended to complement US geostationary early warning satellites with advanced capabilities to sense and track ballistic missiles during the boost and midcourse phases of flight, ''substantially improving the presentation of ballistic missile defences''. In some trials conduct last year, the two expression STSS satellites successfully detected "threat-representative" missiles launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California and communicate "trajectory data" to US ballistic missile defence ground stations. Federal Labor's contract to host Project Crok followed briefings of US embassy official by then Defence Department deputy secretary Mike Pezzullo on the government's missile defence policy.