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5 mins read 30 Sep 2020

SmartSat CRC Forming Smart International Partnerships

With Australia aiming to triple the size of its space sector by 2030, SmartSat CRC is establishing partnerships with global space players that will help it to do just that.

SmartSat CRC is partnering with NASA's Search and Rescue office to develop next-generation emergency beacons. Credit: NASA

September has been a productive month for the SmartSat Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) with the recent announcement that they would collaborate with Australia’s national science agency, the CSIRO, to develop the AquaWatch Australia mission, and now with confirmation of international partnerships with the United States and Italy that will build Australia’s space industry and cement South Australia as the defence and space capital of the country.

The SmartSat CRC is the biggest space industry-research collaboration in Australia’s history, with more than 85 participants comprising universities, global space companies, and start-ups. Amongst their core partners are the Australian National University, the Department of Defence, Science and Technology, and FrontierSI, themselves a former CRC for spatial information.

Located in Adelaide’s Lot Fourteen, the new technology hub that is fast becoming a global innovation neighbourhood, SmartSat CRC is on a mission to be recognised as the leading contributor in transforming Australia’s space innovation ecosystem for the country’s future prosperity. Collaborative and cooperative partnerships like those established just this month will be key to the realisation of this goal.

Collaboration with NASA

Overview diagram of COSPAS-SARSAT communication system used to detect and locate ELTs, EPIRBs, and PLBs. Credit: SARSAT-NOAA

On 9 September, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Centre announced the collaboration between their Search and Rescue (SAR) office and SmartSat CRC to research advanced distress-related communications and navigation technology that would benefit both the US and Australia. The partnership provides SmartSat CRC with NASA engineering expertise as they work on next-generation rescue technology.

Emergency beacons have been used by aviators, sailors and adventurers for many years, and originally transmitted signals using a frequency of 121.5-MHz. This frequency is still used for short range location detection during search and rescue operations, but the modern standard is to use 406-MHz which was designed with satellite detection and location in mind.

SmartSat CRC will propose new designs for the 406-MHz signal that is sent by beacons through the Cospas-Sarsat network, an international satellite system that provides distress location data to first responders worldwide. Enhancements to the beacons will offer quicker response times and significantly improved location accuracy, from kilometres to metres, and will be used by Artemis astronauts returning from the Moon in the coming years.

“This collaboration is part of a more systematic and broader activity between NASA GSFC and SmartSat CRC and opens the door to a lot of possibilities for the Australian space community,” says SmartSat CRC CEO and Managing Director Andy Koronios. “We are delighted to be partnering with Goddard’s Search and Rescue office, joining their push towards the Moon and beyond.”

Other Australian partners in the project include University of South Australia, Safety from Space, Myriota, Black Art Technologies, Flinders University, and the Australian Maritime Safety Authority.

Working with International Partners

Australia's space technology hub in Adelaide, Lot Fourteen. Credit: The Advertiser.

A commitment by Leonardo, a world leader in aerospace, defence and security, to the South Australian space ecosystem was made on 17 September with their decision to join Adelaide’s Lot Fourteen space precinct in partnership with SmartSat CRC. The partnership will be realised through e-GEOS, a joint venture between Leonardo subsidiary Telespazio and the Italian Space Agency, and a leading international player in the Earth observation and geo-spatial information business.

As a dominant supplier in the space sector, Leonardo is aiming to collaborate with the burgeoning Australian space industry to further stimulate growth and competitiveness in global markets. With Lot Fourteen seen as the beating heart of Australia’s space activities, it is the perfect place for Leonardo and SmartSat CRC to explore synergies in research and expertise to develop business opportunities and grow the industry.

Despite being an Italian company, Leonardo already has footprints in Australia, with operating sites in two locations in Melbourne, as well as in Perth and Nowra. They have been supporting local communities acting as a prime systems integrator and partner of both defence and civilian contractors.

They have decades of experience in space programs includes prominent roles in the Galileo global navigation system, the ExoMars and Rosetta missions, and the International Space Station.

The Premier of South Australia, Steven Marshall, welcomed Leonardo to Lot Fourteen, saying that the interest shown by international players was sure to translate into thousands of new jobs now and into the future. “South Australia is the defence and space capital of the country and it’s fantastic to see another incredible international company choosing South Australia to do business,” he said.

Global Companies, Local Benefits

With the Australian Government looking to triple the size of the space sector to $12-billion and create up to 20,000 jobs by 2030, partnerships such as these will be critical in the years ahead. They also demonstrate the credibility already associated with our fledgling space industry by major space organisations around the world.

The Australian Space Agency charter is to transform and grow a globally respected Australian space industry that lifts the broader economy, inspires and improves the lives of Australians, and that is underpinned by strong international and national engagement.

SmartSatCRC is one organisation that will be driving this transformation, through their focus on telecommunications, agriculture and natural resources, transport and logistics, mining, and defence and national security.

Australia’s geographic location has always made it an important partner in international space-related activities, but now it is our investment in the space sector combined with local entrepreneurship and expertise that is bringing us forward into the new space economy at an ever increasing rate.