Tuesday, 26 September 2017 20:19

Researchers benefit from CSIRO investment in one of world’s ‘most sophisticated’ satellites

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The CSIRO says it has secured access to one of the world's most sophisticated high-performance satellites, giving Australian scientists direct control over which data the satellite collects over the region, and putting the national science agency at the forefront of Australia's civilian space science sector.

Developed by UK-based Surrey Satellite Technology — and with a payload supplied by Airbus UK — the satellite will give the CSIRO and the wider Australian research community an advanced form of radar technology known as S-band Synthetic Aperture Radar, or S-band SAR, which provides high resolution images of earth from space.

The CSIRO says the S-band SAR technology is a significant advancement on current civilian satellite capability, enabling images to be taken day and night, and through cloud cover, which is especially useful in tropical zones and cloud-affected areas.

Under the deal — worth $10.45 million over seven years — the CSIRO and SSTL have agreed to a 10% share of 'tasking and acquisition' time on the NovaSAR satellite, which is due for launch later this year.

The deal gives the CSIRO the right to direct the satellite's activity over Australia, download and process data, and make these data available to the wider research community.

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.

"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."

The CSIRO says some of the practical applications for NovaSAR satellite data and associated research projects include:

  •     Rapid natural disaster identification, monitoring and assessment including after cyclones, floods, earthquakes, pollution and oil spills;
  •     Improved infrastructure and agriculture mapping in Northern Australia;
  •     Monitoring crops and assessing factors such as plant biomass and soil moisture;
  •     Detection of illegal deforestation;
  •     Flood risk assessment; and
  •     Monitoring shipping routes and detecting illegal activity.

Science Minister 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.

"This will also lead to better and more informed support for policy and decision-making and, ultimately, our economic development as a nation."

Sinodinos said the new opportunities had the potential to build stronger research partnerships between the government, universities and the wider space industry in Australia.

In developing the NovaSAR-S technology, commercial director of SSTL, 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," 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.

"We look forward to working with CSIRO as one of our key partners over the next seven years to provide cutting-edge geo-spatial data for Australia's benefit."


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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham - an iTWire treasure is a mentor and coach who volunteers also a writer and much valued founding partner of iTWire. He is a veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

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