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Revolutionising Satellite Communications in Australia

Image Credits: SmartSat, Press Release

The Defence Space Command has entered into a contract worth AU$ 6.4 million with a space company in Australia. The programme aims to combine the company’s satellite technology with SmartSat CRC’s ASCEND2LEO research and development project, which is led by the Defence Science and Technology Group (DSTG), the University of South Australia and Safety from Space.

The ASCEND2LEO initiative plans to use advanced satellite technology to showcase tactical voice and data satellite communication through Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite communications in order to aid in the command and control of deployed defence capabilities.

The project aims to develop and exhibit LEO satellite communication systems, focusing on tactical communications and data transmission in areas where connectivity is restricted. This novel approach enables national defence teams to leverage cutting-edge commercial space technology used by the mining industry with the latest research to advance space capabilities quickly.

Colonel Clifford White, the Director of Space Services at Defence Space Command, expressed his thoughts on the collaboration, stating that Australia is fortunate to have a space industry with a creative outlook. He added that space plays a crucial role in accomplishing the Defence mission, and this partnership is a prime example of an innovative approach to improving capabilities and promoting the development of a sustainable national space enterprise. Colonel White looks forward to collaborating with the space company to leverage new approaches and improve satellite communication capabilities to fulfil defence requirements.

Professor Andy Koronios, the CEO of SmartSat, stated that ASCEND2LEO is an ambitious project and a prime example of how SmartSat can assist its partners in successfully developing and demonstrating innovative Australian technology to customers, such as the defence sector.

He further added that the project fulfils one of the objectives of the Defence Space Strategy, which is to enable Defence to benefit from civilian technology repurposed for military purposes, without the need for R&D or venture incubation. By collaborating with the space company, SmartSat was able to propose repurposing technology used in world-leading mineral exploration and technology developed by SmartSat for constructing more resilient Search and Rescue infrastructure, to demonstrate tactical voice communications.

As Australia emerges as a prominent player in the global ‘New Space’ industry, there is a unique opportunity to embrace and develop cutting-edge technologies and methodologies for domestic satellite technology production. The nation’s competitive strengths, such as low-power, high-performance edge computing in small spacecraft and terrestrial devices, as well as additive manufacturing, can be leveraged to reinforce sovereign space capabilities for the country and its allies.

The AU$ 6.4 million contract signed between Australia’s Defence Space Command and the space technology provider will pave the way for the development of a LEO satellite communications system under the programme ASCEND2LEO. The initiative is aimed at enhancing the domestically led national space and defence industry by leveraging Australia’s competitive strengths. It also marks the provider’s first foray into the defence sector, as its satellites will be employed for this project.

Apart from venturing into the defence sector with its innovative LEO satellite communications systems, the space company is also diversifying its offerings with the ExoSphere system, which offers a cutting-edge solution for mining exploration. The system includes portable Geodes sensors that use ambient noise tomography (ANT) to gather subsurface data.

This data is transmitted to the ExoSphere constellation of LEO satellites, which relay it to computers that employ machine learning algorithms to produce detailed 3D subsurface maps. These maps assist in guiding explorers to locate the resources required for building Australia’s sovereign mineral wealth for future industries and energy security. The space company is poised to become a leader in Australia’s expanding space and defence industry by focusing on developing and embracing new technologies and methodologies.


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