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SmartSat Advancing Space Technology

Image Credits: SmartSat, Press Release
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SmartSat, in conjunction with the ACT Government, has unveiled a suite of research and development (R&D) projects, signalling a profound commitment to advancing space technology and capabilities in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT).

This collaboration has seen their joint investment in the ACT’s space endeavours soar past a significant milestone, reaching over AU$7 million. The announcement coincides with the launch of the ACT Space Update 2023, highlighting the organisation’s dedication to contributing to the region’s growing reputation as a hub for cutting-edge space research.

SmartSat is investing in R&D initiatives that address critical challenges in the space sector. These initiatives encompass a wide range of technological advancements, including enhancing bushfire resilience, enabling spacecraft system autonomy, improving space object surveillance, and fortifying cybersecurity measures to safeguard space systems.

One noteworthy R&D collaboration involves a partnership between the esteemed Australian National University (ANU) and an Australian Machinery industry company. This project is centred on the development of advanced manufacturing technologies for the OzFuel instrument, a vital payload of an Earth Observation Resilience satellite mission.

The mission’s primary goal is to enhance continental-scale fire management and environmental monitoring, with a specific focus on Australian Eucalypt forests, which are prone to wildfires. The innovative technologies arising from this collaboration promise to be instrumental in achieving this ambitious objective.

The second major R&D project brings together a flight computers supplier, UNSW Canberra, and the developer of a next-generation satellite digital twinning platform. Their collective efforts are aimed at advancing Space-Based Space Surveillance (SBSS) capabilities. SBSS is becoming increasingly crucial in both defence and commercial space operations, as the challenges posed by the proliferation of debris and space objects in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) continue to mount. This project represents a significant step forward in enhancing situational awareness and safety in the crowded expanse of space.

Additionally, SmartSat has made strategic investments in cybersecurity and resilient artificial intelligence for space systems at UNSW Canberra. These initiatives underscore the organisation’s commitment to ensuring the security and resilience of critical space infrastructure. In conjunction with these endeavours, SmartSat has established two Professorial Chairs at ANU. Professor Hanna Kurniawati holds the Professorial Chair for System Autonomy, Intelligence, and Decision Making, while Professor Kirk McKenzie occupies the Professorial Chair of Precision Measurement in Space. These appointments reflect SmartSat’s commitment to nurturing expertise in key areas of space research and development.

The CEO of SmartSat underscored the significance of this AU$7 million joint investment in the ACT. He views it as a testament to SmartSat’s unwavering commitment to supporting and advancing the national space sector. Since 2020, SmartSat has consistently demonstrated its dedication by funding over ten projects at ANU and UNSW Canberra.

The CEO expressed excitement about aligning with the initiative-taking agenda set by the ACT government through this fresh round of research investments. He believes that these investments will have a ripple effect, accelerating the development of space R&D capabilities in the ACT and providing invaluable support to ANU’s broader Earth Observation Resilience Mission.

Looking ahead, SmartSat is expected to play a pivotal role in establishing the foundation for a robust and successful national space sector. These strategic investments foster collaboration between established industry leaders and emerging companies. Simultaneously, they harness the expertise and innovation of Australia’s leading universities. The ultimate goal is to cultivate the specialised capabilities required to nurture a thriving commercial space industry, ensuring that Australia remains at the forefront of space exploration and technology.

In August 2023, OpenGov Asia reported that SmartSat hosted the second Defence & National Security Showcase in Canberra, bringing together key government officials, defence and national security stakeholders, and industry representatives. The aim was to update attendees on the government’s research projects and strategic directions in defence and security. Over 70 participants joined the event, which included a session highlighting research projects in space domain awareness, AI in space, and advanced communications.

These projects demonstrated how space technology is being aligned with national defence efforts, connecting collaborative research initiatives, and advancing Australia’s space capabilities while enhancing defence and security interests.

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