25 Feb 2020

Australia’s SmartSat CRC – Securing our future

SmartSat Cooperative Research Centre announces details of its first R&D projects.

On the 18th February 2020, ahead of the landmark week for Australia’s space industry, including the ninth convening of the highly successful Australian Space Forum, the SmartSat Cooperative Research Centre today announced details of its first R&D projects, prioritising water security, disaster management, and advanced telecommunications innovation.  

Following the nation’s crippling summer of bushfires, top priority for the CRC is development of accurate, reliable communications technology for disaster management, which will see SmartSat collaborate with NASA, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, and local industry partner, Safety from Space, on a project with broad international implications.  

“Critical communications infrastructure is often damaged during a major fire incident, which may complicate rescue efforts and put lives at further risk,” Prof Koronios says.

“We are meeting with NASA this week to discuss a project that will adapt existing emergency beacon technologies into a form of miniaturised satellite radio, connected into a national incident data management system that will deliver a complete, real-time picture of disaster zones and ensure reliable communication for individuals and communities in danger.”

In a separate project, SmartSat will prove-up technologies that will enable its partners and relevant agencies to establish a national network to monitor the quality and quantity of surface and ground water across the country.

Dubbed the ‘AquaWatch Australia Mission’, this project is to be undertaken in partnership with the CSIRO, and with the support of partners will encompass a national mission to establish a mini constellation of dedicated AquaWatch satellites, complimented by a network of thousands of terrestrial water sensors that will upload data continuously in near real-time. 

“In conjunction with government, industry and scientists, we will be enabling the development of a comprehensive, national monitoring system to provide precise, decision-ready information on quality and quantity across Australia’s waterways and reservoirs, essential for the operation of all levels of government in sustaining basic water services for all Australians.”

The SmartSat-CSIRO Aquawatch program will initiate a suite of additional projects benefiting regional stakeholders including primary producers, environmental managers and resource companies, representing just one part of SmartSat’s broader commitment to regional development.

“One major impediment to growth in many regional areas is lack of communication infrastructure, which is often far inferior to that found in capital cities,” Prof Koronios says. “That not only prevents business and industry from investing in these regions, but also makes individuals reluctant to relocate, even while many experts point to the great need to grow Australia’s regional areas.”

The remainder of SmartSat’s first-round R&D projects address various technical elements of this national communications challenge, with the goal of establishing cost-effective, sovereign satellite capability to deliver secure, high-speed data nationwide. Developing this network will not only deliver benefits to individuals, industry and the nation’s defence sector, it will also ensure Australia leads global innovation of next-generation technologies such as laser and quantum communications.

“These technologies represent the future of how the world communicates and Australia is home to internationally recognised experts in the field,” Prof Koronios says. “Now, the mission for the SmartSat CRC is to co-ordinate research in a way that not only solves the unique challenges posed by Australia’s sprawling geography, but in doing so, shows the world a better way to communicate.”