Bushfire resilience, autonomous spacecraft, space surveillance and cybersecurity are the targets of a new investment package by Australia’s SmartSat Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) to advance space technology.
The new funding is part of a $7 million joint project with Canberra’s ACT Space Update 2023.
The Australian National University (ANU) and EOS Space Systems have been commissioned to assemble advanced manufacturing technology for the domestic production of a critical national climate resilience project. Their satellite-based OzFuel sensor is designed to image broad areas of Australia’s landscape in infrared and hyperspectral bands to deliver near real-time data for assessing bushfire hazard threats. The new telescope is optimised to monitor the flammability of Australia’s unique Eucalyptus forests, which international systems are less capable of detecting.
“It’s not just about technology development; we’re working on reducing risks and building a safer future,” says Associate Professor Marta Yebra of the ANU Fenner School of Environment & Society.
A second project involves UNSW Canberra Space, Infinity Avionics and Nominal Systems which will develop further space-based surveillance technology to monitor the behaviour of other orbital objects in Low Earth Orbit (LEO). This includes debris and potentially hostile spacecraft.
UNSW Canberra has developed machine vision algorithms. Infinity Avionics is providing the sensors necessary to image objects in space. And Nominal System’s digital twinning software will help develop and refine both technologies.
“This project accelerates the time to market for our R&D hardware and tip-and-cue smarts that help our customers rapidly detect and characterise objects in space,” says Infinity Avionics CEO Igor Dimitrijevic.
UNSW Canberra will also get funding to explore the potential for artificial intelligence to help defend space systems from cyberattacks.
Adelaide-based SmartSat CRC CEO Professor Andy Koronios says this $7 million joint investment with the ACT demonstrates support for the national space sector. “Since 2020, SmartSat has demonstrated its commitment to funding over ten projects at ANU and UNSW Canberra. We believe it will have a force-multiplier effect on the development of space R&D capability in the ACT and provide direct support to the ANU’s broader Earth Observation Resilience Mission with critical technology.”
He says the CRC is working to build up the foundations for a national space industry.
“Through strategic investments that bring together prime industry players such as EOS Space Systems and emerging companies like Infinity Avionics with Australia’s leading universities, we are developing the specialist capability needed to grow a robust commercial space industry,” Koronios says.
The SmartSat CRC is coordinating some $245 million of investment among 100 national and international partners in a seven-year research effort. About $55 million is provided by the Federal Government.