5 mins read 15 Aug 2022

Airbus cements its commitment to Australian Soverign Space Capability

Airbus Space and Defence have announced a continuing commitment to the Australian Space Industry by partnering with the Department of Defence to develop the Resilient Multi-mission Space STaR Shot. 

The Arrow 150 Satellite Bus. Credit: Airbus.

Airbus, with its team of Australian Space industry and academia, has signed a multi-year strategic partnership agreement to support the Department of Defence’s ambitious research programme into Space technologies the Resilient Multi-mission Space (RMS) STaR Shot.  

Under the agreement, the team will advance the development and maturation of leap-ahead technologies in support of the Australian Defence Force. It will also explore new operating concepts, and support the development and Space qualification of Australian sovereign payload and satellite components.

“This is a true collaboration between government, industry and academia that will help position our growing Australian space sector to deliver future sovereign space technologies and operational capabilities,” said Australia’s Chief Defence Scientist Professor Tanya Monro.

“There are four missions which we and our customer are agreeing to, it will be an evolutionary process. We will start with a simplified version first and build complexity over the four missions. The other huge driver for this is to create Australian capability and knowledge in parallel,” said Richard Franklin, Managing Director of Airbus Defence and Space UK

Whilst it is hoped that the final mission will be completely designed and built by Australian capability, the initial missions will be a mix of local and international technology. The idea behind the project is to create cost-effective missions that can be rapidly developed whilst still providing advanced capabilities. 

In total, the Airbus partnership represents an investment of more than $40 million in satellite technologies.

Defence Science and Technology

Professor Tanya Monro, Australia’s Chief Defence Scientist, and Sascha Hapke, AIrbus Head of Defence & Space Australasia. Credit: Supplied.

“By partnering with Airbus, we will fast-track the development of critical satellite technologies for the ADF, and ensure that our warfighters have ongoing access to resilient and trusted communication, intelligence and surveillance services,” said Professor Munro.  

Planning has already commenced for two experimental satellite missions. Defence has purchased two Airbus Arrow 150 satellite buses valued at over $20 million. These satellite buses will be outfitted with payloads and technologies developed by Australian industry and academia. 

Airbus has partnered with Shoal Group, Inovor, University of South Australia, University of Melbourne, Australian National University, University of New South Wales Canberra and Deloitte to deliver strong expertise in support of the RMS STaR Shot in the delivery of multiple smallsat satellite missions for Defence over the coming years.

The Resilient Multi-Mission Space program is part of the Science, Technology and Research (STaR) Shots, which were announced as part of the Defence Science and Technology Strategy 2030. The STaR Shots aim to deliver new capabilities to defence with a focus on defence's biggest challenges. 

“Self-reliance in space technologies is critical if we are to ensure the defence and security of the country,” added Professor Monro.

The program will look to test and demonstrate mission capabilities of increasing the complexity. These missions will help to inform defence of its needs going forward, with a focus on Intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR). ISR can come in many forms from RADAR to optical, UV, space situational awareness and monitoring. These will also have many dual-use applications such as environmental monitoring, planning and agriculture.  

“Partnering with Australia for this RMS STaR Shot agreement demonstrates our firm commitment to further enhancing the sovereign space capability and expertise of the Australian Space sector. We will be working hand in hand with our Australia partners and Defence to identify the key skills, technologies and strategic advantages that this partnership can deliver to enable Australia to become a global space player in the next decade,” added Franklin. 

The Airbus Arrow 150 Platform

The Arrow platform is derived from the OneWeb spacecraft development and can be used as single satellites or in constellations. Credit: Airbus.

According to Airbus the Arrow platform that will make up the initial stages of the program will support their drive to create an Australian space capability but also allow Australian companies to try their technology. This highly versatile satellite bus can be tailored to a number of different uses, which can be driven by emerging customer needs and capabilities.  

“Initially 2 satellites, the Arrow satellites will be used as the base platform to put the sensors on, and that's to allow for accelerated timescales as they are known platforms that have a production run, a set design and output of power," said Franklin.

“It's then relatively easy to then say to the community you've got this plug with this amount of space and this weight range,” added Franklin.

“The Arrow satellites provide some of the earliest possible opportunities to take Australian-developed Defence payloads into space,” said Professor Munroe.

“As our domestic space sector matures, we will use locally designed and built satellites that are expected to be the most ambitious satellites ever designed and built in Australia,” concluded Professor Munroe.