D. SmartSat CRC supplementary submission

The following is an extract from a supplementary submission provided by SmarSatCRC.1

Building the Space Architecture to Realise the Vision

At the heart of a fully functioning space ecosystem for Australia are the triple capabilities of earth observation, satellite telecommunications and PNT, supported by advanced analytics, and space systems providing coverage to every part of Australia and its off-shore territories including the Indian and Pacific Oceans and Antarctica.
Set out below is a first cut of the detailed components of the national space architecture for Australia which in our view are needed over the next seven years, comprising a mix of government and commercial ownership, operating from a variety of orbits:
In order to achieve persistent coverage of Australia from non-geostationary orbits it is necessary to provide global coverage. This creates opportunities from these orbits to offer regional services around the globe and further foster critical international partnerships.
Implementation will also require development of the additional components as outlined below. Again these will comprise a mix of government and commercial owned assets, many of which will become critical infrastructure or contribute to systems of national importance.
LEO Satellites
Constellation of low earth orbit satellites providing continuous coverage of Australia for low-latency communications and sensor data download
MEO Satellites
Provides wider field of view than LEO resulting is lower number of satellites. These can provide PNT signals and communications relay functions for LEO satellites.
GEO Satellites
Provide persistant coverage from a single satellite but the orbital location results in high cost launch and long signal propagation delays that result in low quality voice services as well as hampering the development of low latency-dependent applications.
Space Based Sensors
Satellites will carry Earth Observation sensors that offer less than one metre pixel resolutions at least six hourly with passive optical and NIR sensors. Larger satellites in LEO and MEO orbits will carry shortwave imaging and low cost hyperspectral. The MEO satellites will be configured to offer persistent coverage, approaching 24 hourly. Satellites with electro-optical and RF imaging capabilities to provide 24/7, 365 day coverage of Australia
Access to space
Launch capabilities onshore for small satellites
Mission Control
To monitor and safely operate national space infrastructure
System Design and Integration
Capabilities for ideation, design, build and space hardening of sensors and satellite buses across the private and publicly funded research sectors
Space Manufacturing
Manufacturing of specialised componentry for domestic and international markets
Intelligent Spacecraft
Artificial intelligence processing capabilities on-board select satellites
Space and Spatial Digital Twins
Digital twin analytics systems that operate off a common backbone of space-related infrastructure.
Data Analytics and Decision Support and in particular spatial capabilities
Analytics which power information product generation using multiple data sources from real-time sensor acquisitions combined with existing data from the vast existing data stores producing customised outputs, fit for purpose, timely and available where and when required (cover AquaWatch, Eye in the Sky, the Indo-Pacific Connector and others)
Data Stores
Located within Australian territory for enhanced cyber resilience
SBAS (Space Based Augmentation System)
Fully integrated with PNT (GNSS) at all key stages of the information supply chain. Currently under acquisition by Geoscience Australia
Whole-of-Government Coordination
Favourable and coordinated policies and programs for tendering, procurement and R&D to build national capability that has specifically been identified as a needed sovereign capability, and critical mass for capturing and growing domestic and international markets
Stage gated development over the next seven years which sees capability development managed to this nationally conceived design
These capabilities are the equivalent today of Australia’s telecommunications copper wires and their supporting infrastructure from early to the middle of last century - a national sovereign capability that was critical to building our nation.

Space Infrastructure

There are four key space capabilities that are needed to serve every nation on earth:
Earth observation;
Positioning, navigation and timing; and
Space Domain Awareness (SDA), including Space Traffic Management.
It is the first two that are the focus of this submission. The third, positioning, navigation and timing is being very effectively advanced by Geoscience Australia’s ‘Positioning Australia’ program with $224.9M from the 2018 Federal budget.
The final capability has historically been the preserve of the military but with increasing commercial interest in space, an element of SDA, namely Space Traffic Management, is emerging as a national/international capability to ensure space remains a global commons capable of continuing to deliver benefit to all as it becomes increasingly congested.


Satellite communications are needed to provide reliable, high bandwidth and high speed to all areas of the continent, our offshore territories and our territorial waters. The absence of this capability is widely recognised as impeding growth in regional, rural and remote areas.
Moreover the benefits of the sensor revolution (the Internet of Things) cannot be realised without access to constellations of low earth orbit cube satellites (cubesats) that prioritise coverage of the nation, nor can other technological advances such as autonomous vehicles (e.g. driverless cars). The hopeful plans of a number of Australian start-ups will see dozens of these cubesats appearing over our skies in the coming years, but without a national plan to construct the infrastructural backbone for their use, they face significant risk of failure.

Earth Observation

Australia relies on about 25 earth observing remote sensing satellites for operational applications across much of the economy. None of these satellites systems are owned by Australian companies, nor have any Australian industrial content. These satellites serve every jurisdiction, across many government agencies and Australian enterprises, across much of the economy for commerce and for disaster and emergency management.

Space Capability Applications

The following is a list of current applications and those needed in the future. This is a preliminary set of application areas for space systems based on work conducted within SmartSat CRC during our bid development phase and first year of operation. This is provided with the view of highlighting to the reader that a broad range of opportunities exist. This is not claimed to be an exhaustive list and work being undertaken by other organisations, including the Australian Space Agency, will no doubt identify other potential national application areas.

Communications (LEO/MEO – orbital choice based on cost/latency trade-off)

National emergency response communications network including safety of life (AMSA) function
Universal Service Guarantee voice/data (low latency, high availability)
Telemedicine for remote/rural/regional communities
An overlaid applications that could be delivered through a combination of the NBN/Commercial broadband networks and the USG network listed above

Environmental sensing (LEO/GEO – spatial/temporal resolutions trade)

Alternate/augmented sensor to complement data accessed under existing international agreements. Would require consultation with the Bureau of Meteorology.
Water resources
Extension of Aquawatch to improve national management of fresh water resources.
Carbon monitoring
Includes sensors to assess effectiveness of carbon reduction measures including soil management.
Land use (e.g. fire fuel loads)
Advanced hyperspectral sensors to improve understanding of land use for agriculture, mining, environmental.
Civil maritime security threats
Quarantine and Inspection
Biosecurity/environmental management such as marine transport sector oversight
Fisheries management, including detecting and policing illegal exploitation of fish-stocks in partnership with pacific partners.

Position, Navigation and Timing (PNT) (LEO/MEO)

Additional Satellite Based Augmentation Systems (SBAS)/Regional Navigation Satellite Services
Including a stronger focus on PNT service resilience to supplement current SBAS approaches targeting accuracy.
High precision timing signal
Provided independently from position and navigation capabilities. Many commercial applications, e.g. finance, are highly reliant on timing information and there are many well documented vulnerabilities related to relying on global GNSS systems for this signal. Advanced, compact atomic clocks currently under development within Australia, could form the basis of a high precision, resilience timing service from LEO, MEO or GEO to reduce reliance on foreign controlled satellite networks.

Space Domain Awareness (Earth/LEO/MEO/GEO)

Space weather observation and forecasting
Orbital re-entry monitoring (could be Defence function)

Space Service Delivery Enablement (MEO/GEO)

MEO relay capability (LEO service extension)
Ground station networks
Commercial space traffic management
Includes conjunction analysis and warning for commercial operators

  • 1
    SmartSat CRC, Supplementary Submission 29.1, pages 4-6 and 7-9.

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