Research Programs

Power Rating of Integrated Photonics (IP) Towards Inter Satellite Links (ISL) Applications

Robust Inter-Satellite Links

The project aims to demonstrate the benefits of Integrated Photonic (IP) technology for the low-cost implementation of high bandwidth communication links for small satellite constellations. IP allows all the elements of a space based optical mesh network to be implemented using a set of low Size, Weight and Power (SWaP) solid-state integrated photonic building blocks: a transmitter producing a directional electronically focused beam that carries broadband information to a matching receiver, and Wave Division Multiplexing (WDM) components to enhance capacity and manage connections between multiple nodes.

The project will experimentally demonstrate an integrated photonic transmitter based on Silicon Carbide (SiC) building blocks as part of a staged development. The choice of SiC is a key innovation offering both greater power capacity and survivability in hostile environments. This project facilitates the subsequent realisation of a commercial integrated transmitter ready for trial in space.


Project Leader:
Professor Xiaoke Yi, University of Sydney


Integration of Digital Earth and IoT for Water Quality Monitoring

EO Analytics

Australia’s inland waterways, reservoirs and coastal waters provide significant benefits to the ecosystem, local economy, public health, and food security (Boyd, 2020). Currently, securing water resources and their quality has been regarded as a critical consideration due to its increasing demand with socioeconomic and population growth, shrinking freshwater resources, and aquatic ecosystem degradation (SmartSat, 2021). In this sense, substantial improvements have been achieved to safeguard water resources through various management strategies, plans and regulatory arrangements. For instance, the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG 6) highlights the importance of water quality and access to clean, safe, and secure water supplies are fundamental for attaining sustainable development by ensuring availability and sustainable management of water at the regional and global level (GEO – Group on Earth Observations, 2018). However, the quality of water resources has been impaired to some degree due to various natural and anthropogenic disturbances such as excessive use of pesticides, harmful chemical substances, soil erosion, organic wastes, and heavy metals from the industry (Briffa, Sinagra, & Blundell, 2020; Issaka & Ashraf, 2017). Therefore, there is an urgent need to continuously monitor the quality of Australian inland and coastal waters by harnessing innovative approaches.

In the last few decades, “Digital Earth” has been widely used as a strategic platform to support national and international cooperation towards reaching sustainable development goals (SDGs). Along with being a global strategic contributor to sustainable development, the Digital Earth is being regarded as a vital approach for addressing the environmental, social, economic and cultural challenges that affect human lives, their nations and the planet Earth, allowing humankind to visualise the Earth, to access information about it and to understand above issues (Dhu et al., 2017; Mazlan, Samsudin, & Yin Chai, 2014). Guo, Goodchild, and Annoni (2020) described the Digital Earth as the combination of massive, multi-resolution, multi-temporal, and multi-typed Earth Observation (EO) and appropriate smart analytical algorithms. The Earth Observation (EO), one of the integral parts of Digital Earth, includes next-generation remote sensing satellites and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and has become a significant part of environmental sustainability to tackle current and emerging challenges, including climate change, natural resource depletion, water insecurity, and environmental degradation (Alvarez-Vanhard, Corpetti, & Houet, 2021). In this respect, Digital Earth Australia (DEA) was established to provide insights into Australia’s evolving land, coast, and water issues by utilizing EO data and other geospatial data (Dhu et al., 2017).

With the technological advances in computational power and internet capabilities, unprecedented opportunities have emerged. For example, cutting-edge sensor technology evolved the way of monitoring environmental, social, and economic challenges. One of the highly developed sensor technologies is the Internet of Things (IoT), which enables interconnecting Things based on existing and evolving interoperable information and communication technologies at various scales (Guo et al., 2020). In other words, it is a network of infrastructure in which objects equipped with computing capabilities can communicate directly with each other and collect and transmit data to central servers (ITU, 2012; Tzounis et al., 2017). The IoT contains real-time in situ water quality data with high temporal and spatial resolution, capturing dynamic flow characteristics, pollution events, and water quality extremes (Chowdury et al., 2019). Furthermore, the low cost and ease of deploying IoT sensors throughout the area of interest significantly reduce data collection barriers while increasing data transparency.

Integrating Digital Earth and derived products with ground-based, high accuracy & frequency IoT sensor networks in the domain of water quality monitoring is a promising option to determine quality parameters, understand its variability and inform evaluations of water quality prediction. Furthermore, this collaboration can provide an integrative and quantitative water source management necessary for evidence-based decision-making (Loucks & van Beek, 2017). In this sense, SmartSat CRC is implementing a pilot project named “Satcom IoT-enabled automatic groundwater collection and aggregation pilot (SIG WATER)”, which is dedicated to checking the technical feasibility, reliability, and cost-effectiveness of deploying IoT sensors as an end-to-end solution for groundwater bores. Furthermore, another project titled “Next-generation testbed design for Earth observation” aims to enhance the right level of “trust” for EO data and derived products by calibration and validation. In the context of our research, we would like to integrate a state-of-the-art ground-based IoT network with quality-assured, uncertainty quantified EO data for water quality monitoring along the Australian west coastline through the abundance of partnerships with organisations and industry cooperation.


Project Leader:
Dr Ivana Ivanova, Curtin University

PhD Student:
Bazarzagd Lkhagvasuren, Curtin University


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 Damario Lukito, La Trobe University


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, The University of South Australia/Defence Science and Technology Group


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, The University of Technology Sydney


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