Research Programs

Machine Learning Approach for The Enhancement of Transmission Capacity and Latency for IoT Satellite Communications Based on Resource Allocation


Internet-of-Things (IoT) has become a high-demanding and prominent solution to any aspect of our life, and yet it is still evolving. A lot of applications are using IoT technologies as their main services, such as wearable devices, healthcare, traffic monitoring, as well as hospitality. However, the escalation of Internet-of-Things applications obviously requires a network infrastructure that has the capability to deliver high-throughput, low-latency, and reliablem communication. As we have known, the existing communication systems that have those capabilities are fiber optics and cellular networks such as 5G technology. And yet, is the service available anywhere around the globe? Commonly, IoT systems will be working properly in the coverage of the internet, roughly an area that is covered by cellular communications and fiber optics as well. Meanwhile, there are also possibilities of the IoT systems demand to enhance productivity of the industries that are located in remote areas, for instance, agriculture, transportation and logistics, maritime, environment, and mining industries. For example, in the agriculture industry, the total size of palm plantations in Indonesia is roughly about 16.38 million hectares1, while all of their locations are located in remote areas. Therefore, with cellular communications or fiber optics, IoT will not be able to work since those types of communications are not available across remote areas. Other land-based industries, such as mining and power plants, also have similar problems regarding internet connectivity. This problem also occurs in transportation, logistics and maritime as well, when their fleets are cruising across an area that is not covered by cellular communications, like the ocean or sky. The primary solution to the problem in order to unleash the possibilities is by giving access to the internet. Nevertheless, it is not feasible if we should establish cellular communications or fiber optics to remote areas, since it is related to the economical aspect of the providers that will run the service. Therefore, the primary solution should be establishing a communication system that is not limited by coverage area. Satellite communications (satcom) will be the most convenient solution to the internet access problem for remote areas. Currently, several satcom providers already have the IoT services that enable the IoT system to communicate through the satellites. As users (traffic) grow, the number of data is also increasing, therefore the IoT satellites will need to facilitate a higher capacity. In addition, the IoT satellites need to be reliable as well, herewith the probability of losing a packet should be minimized, either it is obviously related to downtime or bit-error-rate. The satellites should face the existing infrastructures for IoT such as 5G, in terms of capacity and reliability.


Project Leader:
Professor Wei Xiang, La Trobe University

PhD Student:
William Lukito


An automated method of detecting, characterising, and responding to radiation events in space

Trusted Autonomous Satellite Operations

Resiliency is the ability of a system architecture to continue providing required capabilities in the face of system failures, environmental challenges, or adversary actions (Royal Australian Air Force, Space Command). As defined by the Resilient Multi-Mission Space STaR Shot, providing resilient space-based services direct to war fighters will enable the Australian Defence Force to prevail in increasingly contested environments.

The barrier to entry into the small satellite industry is lowering considerably in terms of manufacturing cost, time for construction, and cost to launch, enabling rapid experimentation and large constellations. Space has been listed as a Sovereign Industry Capability Priority (SICP) and there is a wide range of space applications that Australian Defence can undertake to achieve its goals in the harsh environment of space. With the shift in the space industry to small satellites using commercial-off-the-shelf products, this has reduced standards around space resiliency, and recent results have shown that approximately 40% of all small satellites launched in the last two decades experienced total or partial mission failure (Jacklin, 2018).

However, reduction in mission assurance has not reduced the operational mission expectation. In order to ensure a resilient spacecraft that meets the demand for Australian Defence capability, a spacecraft must be designed to survive in its environment and characterise and respond to threats in this changing environment. It is commonly known that space radiation has detrimental effects on electronic components in low-earth orbit. Currently spacecraft attempt to pre-emptively mitigate radiation events by using earth-based space weather forecasting. Gaining understanding and characterising radiation induced effects will be essential to real-time on-orbit mitigation. Single event effects (SEEs) arise from strikes of cosmic rays, protons or neutrons and they cause significant damage to electronics on board spacecraft. Characterising SEEs will be essential for outlining a procedure for the design and validation of radiation-tolerant electronic systems.

This proposed PhD will measure and characterise the types/intensity of radiation experienced in space through sensor instrumentation which can be implemented on-board spacecraft, and it will respond to measured results in real-time. Implementing a real-time response in space, using characterised radiation data, is a novel concept. Methods of radiation mitigation will be explored, as well as extensive environmental testing and simulation. The University of South Australia has endorsed this proposed PhD, with supervision by Associate Professor Ady James (primary supervisor) and Professor Ryszard Kowalczyk (co-supervisor). Dr James is the co-director of the Southern Hemisphere Space Studies Program and the Education Coordinator of SmartSat CRC. Dr James has worked on various space programs including Mars 96, Cluster II and Solar-B (Hinode). Dr Kowalczyk is the SmartSat CRC Chair in Artificial Intelligence, and he was the director of Swinburne Key Lab for Intelligent Software Systems and Head of Distributed AI Systems Research Group. In addition to the University of South Australia, the Australian National University has endorsed this PhD. Professor Mahandanda Dasgupta will co-supervise the PhD, allowing access to worldclass heavy-ion accelerator facilities. Dr Dasgupta is an experimental physicist and has been published in more than 80 journals, as well as being awarded a Queen Elizabeth II Fellowship and the prestigious Pawsey medal. Finally, this PhD is supported by SmartSat CRC, providing access to an alumni network of SmartSat CRC research partners and funding travel and PhD operational costs for this project.

The design and build phase of this PhD will occur at DST (Edinburgh) and the University of South Australia (Mawson Lakes). The testing phase will occur at the Australian National University (Canberra).


Project Leader:
Associate Professor Ady James, The University of South Australia

PhD Student:
Franke Agenbag


Wideband Antennas for Cognitive Satellite Communications

Cognitive Networks

The rapid increase in the demand for wideband wireless spectrum has engendered the rapid expansion of the high-speed and multimedia wireless services market. Access to the much-needed usable spectrum is scarce due to current spectrum segmentation and complex operations related to managing the allocated frequencies. Accordingly, developing wireless communication platforms has become significantly challenging. Cognitive radio (CR) is a technology that provide an answer to the scarcity problem due to its dynamic spectrum management stemming from its capability of autonomous reconfiguration by learning and adapting to its surrounding environment; this allows for efficient radio spectrum sharing.

For CR, there is a need for wideband antennas to monitor the channel activity and scan all the frequency bands. In addition, wideband antennas are vital to satisfy the increasing demand for broad bandwidth in wireless communication. The fundamental RF configuration of a CR system is consists of a reconfigurable transmit-receive (TR) antenna and a sensing antenna. The wireless channel for unused frequency bands is monitored by sensing antenna. At the same time, the reconfigurable TR antenna performs the vital transmission. A variety of antennas have been engineered with CR capabilities. With CR, the antenna size is vital, thus requiring miniaturised antennas. Therefore, the predominant focus of this research will be to design, test, and fabricate miniaturized wideband antennas. The antenna must have reconfigurable capabilities such as pattern diversity and beam scanning to perform sensing of a wide range of frequencies to detect unutilised frequency bands and fully exploit the CR systems.


Project Leader:
Professor Karu Esselle, The University of Technology Sydney

PhD Student:
Cho Hilary Scott Nkimbeng


IPC Visualisation Task

On-board analytics

This project responds to a request from Defence Science and Technology Group (DSTG) to develop a visualisation of SmartSat CRC research activities to provide context for Defence capability managers. This initial activity will draw on conceptual work to show how Indo-Pacific Connector will deliver maritime domain awareness through space-based sensors and advanced communication technologies.


Project Leader:
Dr James Walsh, The University of South Australia


Inter-Satellite Links using Millimetre Waves

Robust Inter-Satellite Links

This project aims to develop a novel communication system for Inter-satellite links (ISLs) at millimeter wave (mmWave) frequencies (60GHz), compatible with CubeSats and small satellites. Inter-satellite communication is a key enabler of advanced Low Earth Orbit (LEO) constellations that intend to provide high speed connectivity around the globe, especially for remote areas. In such constellations, employing high data rate satellite to satellite links significantly reduces the latency and increases the resilience compared to data relaying via multiple ground stations. ISLs also facilitate connectivity with satellites in other orbits including Medium Earth Orbits (MEO) and Geostationary Orbit (GEO).

This project will also investigate use cases for ISLs supporting satellite to satellite communication in formation flying scenarios where multiple satellites fly together to achieve a single mission. Despite of all the advantages, the design of ISL is a challenging task due to the dynamic relative motions of the satellites and the need to develop high data rate links with constrained Size Weight and Power (SWaP). Accurate pointing and tracking mechanisms are required to maintain the connectivity between multiple satellites.

This will enable simultaneous connectivity between multiple satellites. Use of digital or hybrid beamforming will eliminate the need for mechanical beam steering (gimbals). This project will also investigate beam tracking techniques (e.g., monopulse tracking). The phased array antennas with beam tracking capability will then be able to track the transmitter as it moves to maintain connectivity.


Project Leader:
Dr Jeewani Kodithuwakkuge, Defence Science and Technology Group


Integrated Tactical Communications (ITC)

Dynamic Payloads – RF & Spectral

Secure, reliable, timely and resilient access to information is critical to success in any modern enterprise. This is especially true for military operations across the spectrum from humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) to battle in highly contested and congested environments.

Currently, the Australian Defence Force relies upon technology developed in the 1970’s to provide network connectivity for its arguably most at risk deployed forces. These systems have well known limitations yet there has been limited research into alternate technologies to support command and control and situational awareness for the tactical warfighter. The project seeks to identify and develop technology for advanced satellite communications as a long-term option to replace or augment these current high mobility satellite communications services.

The project builds on previous SmartSat funded research with a clear focus on three critical technologies to address this gap:

  1. Flexible and adaptive communications waveforms designed for the tactical user
  2. System wide network management to optimise resource allocation for capacity, coverage and resilience
  3. Reconfigurable, agile coverage using multi-frequency, multi-beam antenna arrays (pending future external funding)

This project will refine designs of the tactical communications waveform and initiate research into algorithms that optimise coverage and capacity of heterogeneous/hybrid satellite constellations including an initial demonstration implemented in software. The aim is to accelerate the technology development and understand risks in order to define a follow-on project, funded externally to SmartSat, that will develop a prototype space payload capable of integration with an experimental satellite. This subsequent phase will use the results from this project to inform the agile, multi-beam, multi-band phased array design and the development of initial user terminals. It is expected maturing this technology to the point it can be demonstrated in space will cost $5M – $10M and take three years. This is beyond the resource available from SmartSat so this project will include the
submission of a bid for Defence innovation/prototyping funding to support maturation of the critical underlying technology from TRL4/5 to TRL8.

The target technology demonstration and experimentation program for this research is the Defence STaR Shot for Resilient Multi-mission Space (RMS). The demonstration will showcase a game-changing approach to the provision of resilient satellite communications to the tactical warfighter.

Note: Within this project, tactical communications means systems supporting high levels of user mobility which requires the use of very small aperture terminals (e.g. handheld) and the ability to operate over complex RF propagation channels.


Project Leader:
Jeff Kasparian, SmartSat CRC