15 Nov 2022

SmartSat CRC and NASA team up to collaborate on astronaut emergency communications

SmartSat has announced a project agreement to further develop new Search and Rescue (SAR) beacon technologies with partner NASA.

Australia and the United States, as leaders in the field, have a long history of cooperation in Search and Rescue. In 2020 NASA and SmartSat announced a collaboration to advance satellite-based emergency communications and Search and Rescue, combining communications and navigation technology. This new project deepens the strategic collaboration in this important field.

The project is studying a new search and rescue system for future human exploration on the surface of the moon, known as LunaSAR. Astronaut safety is paramount and the ability to reliably communicate an emergency incident must be maintained, even if other services are not available. Similar to distress beacons on Earth, this system will provide miniature low power radio beacons mounted on space suits and lunar rover vehicles. The technology will support SOS and two-way messaging over a lunar orbiting satellite constellation. It will also allow the beacon location to be accurately determined, in the absence of GPS. This information will be provided securely and quickly to both the mission control centre on Earth and the response team on the moon who are able to take immediate action.

Under the agreement, NASA’s Search and Rescue Laboratory (SARLab) at the agency’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland will bring experts to the project to help guide and review the technical direction. NASA will also provide access to unique and comprehensive test facilities for assessment of performance of the new technology as it is being developed by SmartSat funded research team, led by industry partner Safety from Space. The research team will design a new specialised beacon for extraterrestrial environments based on a new waveform. As well as direct Artemis applications, they will also investigate the potential for enhanced services to extend beyond SAR to broader emergency management such as natural disaster warning systems.

Read the full media release here.