Published 06-05-2021
| Article appears in June 2021 Issue

Quasar tackles quandary of how to manage slew of satellites

05-05-2021
Lab
The CSIRO’s phased array technology will help ground stations communicate with hundreds of satellites simultaneously. Below: CSIRO commercialisation specialist and a founding Director of Quasar, Dr Ilana Feain, and Quasar CEO Phil Ridley.

Newly launched space startup Quasar Satellite Technologies is set to revolutionise space communications, using radio telescope technology developed by the CSIRO. 

With more than 57,000 satellites set to be launched by the end of the decade, Quasar is creating a world-leading ground station service capable of communicating with hundreds of satellites simultaneously, instead of the one-to-one transmissions ground stations are capable of today.

Quasar is backed by $12 million in funding, technology and industry expertise from CSIRO, Main Sequence, the Office of the NSW Chief Scientist & Engineer, and Australian companies Vocus, Saber Astronautics, Fleet Space Technologies, and Clearbox Systems.

Quasar will look to capitalise on the US$130 billion satellite ground communications market, using technology developed by CSIRO for radio telescopes like its own ASKAP telescope in Western Australia. CSIRO Chief Executive Dr Larry Marshall said after helping receive images of humans on the Moon 50 years ago, the commercialisation of this breakthrough research would now help put more Australians into new jobs in the growing space industry.

“CSIRO has been a leader in radio astronomy and spacecraft communications for more than 60 years, from supporting the Moon landing in 1969 to inventing and delivering the phased-array feeds in Australia’s newest radio telescope, ASKAP in Western Australia,” Dr Marshall said. 

“CSIRO’s technology breakthrough enabled the world to connect without wires using fast Wi-Fi, and now our technology will help connect satellites using our breakthrough phased array technology.” 

Quasar CEO Phil Ridley, a telecommunications veteran behind some of Australia’s pioneering internet services like BigPond and Vividwireless, said the technology would enable new satellite-based business models and opportunities previously hindered by legacy ground station technology. 

“Space is the highway of the stars, but current ground station technology is the equivalent of one-lane on-ramps,” Mr Ridley said. 

“By making it possible to communicate with hundreds of satellites simultaneously, we’ll be able to ensure the thousands of satellites launching over the next decade have a way to call home efficiently.”

CSIRO commercialisation specialist and a founding Director of Quasar, Dr Ilana Feain, said bringing together state of the art technology, private investment and industry expertise gave Quasar a strong head start. 

“CSIRO’s phased array technology revolutionised radio astronomy by enabling ASKAP to see enormous portions of the sky at once – about 30 times the area that conventional telescopes could see,” Dr Feain said.

“I’m excited to see the next evolution of this technology empower satellite businesses and their downstream industries.”

Quasar will offer the technology ‘as a service’, enabling commercial and public sector partners to access data from satellites in low, medium and geostationary orbit from anywhere in the world, in the same way many cloud computing services work today. 

Quasar is building the technology using an Australian-based team with expertise and research support from CSIRO.

  

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