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Univ-Business Consortium Developing Advanced Satellites

Australia from space


15 April 2019. An international consortium, led by University of South Australia, plans to create a new generation of space satellites with greater sensing and communications capabilities. The Cooperative Research Centre for Smart Satellite Technologies and Analytics, or SmartSatCRC, is funded by AU$245 million ($US 175.8 million) in public funding, private grants, and in-kind contributions from participating companies and institutions, with the Australian government announcing the SmartSatCRC designation today.

SmartSatCRC is expected to develop onboard and analytics technologies that provide better connectivity with satellites and improved sensing of land and ocean conditions. Those technologies, says the center, will offer faster and more reliable communications, as well as better integration with ground-based networks, including emerging Internet of Things devices. The center also anticipates developing advanced systems to help make satellites more responsive, agile, resilient, and more adaptable to different payloads. In addition, SmartSatCRC expects to create better data analytics for satellites, and better design and testing facilities for those systems.

The smart satellite center resides at University of South Australia in Adelaide, led by Andy Koronios, the university’s dean of industry and enterprise, and former professor of information technology. Joining the university in administering the center is Nova Systems, a technology services company also in Adelaide. Taking part in SmartSatCRC as well are more than 90 other companies, universities, and government science agencies in Australia, as well as corporate partners and agencies from Europe and the U.S., such as Airbus, BAE Systems, Northrup Grumman, NASA, and the European Space Agency.

SmartSatCRC aims to make Australia a leading player in the global space systems industry, by developing a new generation of payload technologies rather than launch vehicles. “Australia has had a strong pedigree and a long history in space with excellent scientific capabilities in instrumentation and communications technologies,” says Koronios in a university statement, “but until now, the research has not been brought together to build a new industry for Australia, and to capitalize on the exponential growth of the global space economy.”

“Globally space technologies and industries are worth more than $500 billion,” adds Koronios, “but that success has been underpinned by serious global investment in research.”

The center is also expected to make Australia less dependent on satellite services from other countries, such as the U.S. and China. Koronios notes that “we cannot rely exclusively on the goodwill of other nations or our deep pockets to meet our communications and connectivity needs or to monitor our nation and our resources.” And he adds, “For example, through their advanced remote sensing capabilities with satellites passing over Australia every day, other nations have the ability to predict our crop yields before we can.”

The announcement today designating SmartSatCRC was made by Karen Andrews, the country’s Minister of Industry, Science and Technology, which includes a commitment of $55 million from the Australian government. The center is Australia’s largest investment in space technology, with the goal of growing into a $12 billion industry, and creating some 20,000 jobs by 2030.

Koronios tells more about SmartSatCRC in this video.

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