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Australia’s CHORUS Enhancing SatCom Security

Image Credits: SmartSat, Press Release

SmartSat has introduced the CHORUS prototype terminal, a cutting-edge technology that aims to enhance the stability and security of military satellite communications at the Australian Space Forum.

The CHORUS prototype terminal, funded by SmartSat CRC, showcases a world-leading technology that has been exclusively developed in Australia. The project was a collaborative effort involving the Defence Science and Technology Group (DSTG), along with industry and academic partners including EOS Space Systems, EM Solutions, Lyrebird Antenna Research, Shoal Group, Australian National University and the University of South Australia. This significant achievement comes after three years of dedicated research and development.

The use of satellite optical communications links presents notable advantages over traditional civilian and military radio frequency (RF) satellite communications. These advantages include substantially higher data rates and a reduced probability of interception. In contrast, RF communications are susceptible to electronic warfare techniques such as jamming, geolocation, and interception.

The primary objective of CHORUS is to overcome the existing limitations of satellite optical communications technology and establish viable commercialization avenues for new SATCOM capabilities. By doing so, CHORUS aims to enhance the security and performance of satellite communications while paving the way for advanced applications in the field.

The CHORUS Terminal represents a breakthrough in satellite communication technology with its hybrid optical/RF system. It incorporates both an RF antenna and an optical telescope, combined into a single integrated system known as the AntennaScope™.

This innovative design ensures users can maintain reliable communications at all times, leveraging the RF capabilities when optical communication is not feasible, and seamlessly transitioning to optical communication when it becomes possible. By harnessing the power of optical communication, the CHORUS Terminal enables significantly higher data rates, offering users a substantial increase in transmission speed and capacity when compared to traditional RF-based systems.

The recent VIP demonstration day held at the Department of Defence Edinburgh base served as a significant milestone for the SmartSat CRC co-funded project. It marked the successful completion of testing and the practical conclusion of the project’s two phases.

The unveiling of the CHORUS Terminal at the Australian Space Forum provided the space community with the first opportunity to witness the prototype and engage in discussions regarding its capabilities and potential commercial applications. Members of the R&D project team were present to share insights and engage in conversations about the technology’s possibilities and potential pathways for commercialisation.

The project benefitted from the remarkable contributions of the Defence Science and Technology Group (DSTG) which played a vital role in facilitating testing at their LASER range. Their efforts included the design and construction of a ‘pseudo-satellite,’ which served as a crucial element in verifying the functionality of the hybrid RF-Optical aperture.

Additionally, the project leveraged the availability of the Cobra maritime SATCOM terminal provided by a Queensland satellite communications component company base, enabling the manufacturing of what is possibly the world’s first coaxial hybrid RF-Optical aperture known as the AntennaScope™. These collaborative endeavours brought together cutting-edge technologies and expertise to achieve significant advancements in the field of satellite communications.

According to the CEO of SmartSat CRC, CHORUS represents a revolutionary technology that will revolutionise Australia’s military communications. By integrating RF communications with highly secure optical communication technology, CHORUS has made it possible to create an entirely new category of satellite communications terminal.

This advancement opens up the potential for retrofitting existing military systems with the CHORUS technology, thereby minimising the need to replace terminals in various military vehicles and ships. As a result, this approach can significantly reduce the associated costs while enhancing the capabilities of military communication systems.

CHORUS has the potential to establish Australia as a frontrunner in the development and deployment of a completely novel category of military satellite communications services for the Australian Defence Force and its allied partners. This cutting-edge technology involves the advancement of optical communications to deliver enhanced bandwidth, reduced observability, and highly secure communication capabilities, surpassing the limitations of existing RF-only technologies.

It offers tactical communication solutions for maritime, aircraft, and land vehicles, presenting significant advantages. Moreover, the versatility of CHORUS extends beyond the military sector, as it holds promising applications in commercial shipping and cruise liners. This remarkable achievement exemplifies Australia’s capacity to attain world-leading outcomes in advanced research, development, and manufacturing endeavours.


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