Hot on the heels of Australia establishing a space agency, the country’s main science body has bought into a leading research satellite.
Australia’s national science agency, the CSIRO, has invested in a 10 per cent share of “tasking and acquisition” time access on the NovaSAR satellite due for launch later this year.
Announced at the International Astronautical Congress (IAC) being held in Adelaide, South Australia, the deal will give Australian scientists direct control over which data the satellite collects and place the CSIRO at the forefront of Australia’s civilian space science sector.
A scaled model of the NovaSAR model was also unveiled at the IAC today.
The NovaSAR satellite will provide the Australian research community with access to S-band Synthetic Aperture Radar (S-band SAR) for high-resolution images of Earth.
Developed by UK-based Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL), and with a payload supplied by Airbus UK, this S-band SAR technology is a significant advancement on current civilian satellite capability.
It enables images to be taken day and night, and through cloud cover, which is especially useful in tropical zones and cloudy areas.
Under the terms of the agreement, worth $10.45 million over seven years, CSIRO has the right to direct the satellite’s activity over Australia, download and process data, and make data available to researchers.
Australia’s Federal Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, Arthur Sinodinos, said the agreement was a timely investment in Australia’s space capability.
“Australia is one of the largest users of Earth Observation from Space data world-wide, with satellite data underpinning more than 100 state and federal resource mapping and environmental monitoring programs across Australia,” he said.
“This agreement will allow CSIRO, via its national facility management capability, to strengthen Australia’s delivery of excellence in science and innovation. It will help CSIRO lead our nation’s development in the technical and analytical capability of modelling, monitoring and analysing our natural resource management and approaches to infrastructure.”
Dr Dave Williams, Executive Director of Digital, National Facilities and Collections at CSIRO, said the deal represented a significant investment in Australia’s space capability.
“The aim is to manage the NovaSAR satellite as a natural extension of the significant role CSIRO already plays in managing a range of National Facilities, on behalf of the Australian community of scientists and for the benefit of the nation,” Dr Williams said.
“Because we’ll be able to direct the satellite’s activity, it provides significant opportunities to support a wide range of existing research, further develop Australia’s earth observation data analytics expertise, and create new opportunities in the field of remote sensing.”
These new opportunities hold potential for building stronger research partnerships between the government, universities and the wider space industry in Australia.
In developing the NovaSAR-S technology, Commercial Director of Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd, Luis Gomes, said the NovaSAR-s system provided revolutionary technology to deliver imagery at any point on the globe.
“Our partnership on the NovaSAR mission with CSIRO will greatly enhance Australia’s sovereign Earth observation capability,” Mr Gomes said.
“The NovaSAR-S technology enables data collection 24/7, regardless of daylight or weather conditions, which is particularly important for this continent with an area with a tropical climate and a large coastline territory.
More than 4200 delegates are in the South Australian capital, Adelaide, for the International Astronautical Congress, the world’s biggest space meeting of the year.
South Australia is positioning itself as a leader in the Australian sector and last week launched a Space Industry Centre, the first of its kind in the nation.