Viasat to work with Indigenous Centre for Appropriate Tech on satellite network

Max Blenkin

US satellite and communications company Viasat has teamed up with the Alice Springs-based Centre for Appropriate Technology to bring improved Earth observation to outback Australia.

This multimillion-dollar investment in a Viasat Real-Time Earth (RTE) facility in Alice Springs will give central Australia a key role in the booming Australian and global satellite and space industry, Viasat said.

The Centre for Appropriate Technology is an Aboriginal not-for-profit science and technology company based in Alice Springs, which will build and own the facility through its wholly-owned commercial subsidiary CfAT Satellite Enterprises and through Indigenous Business Australia (IBA).

IBA is a government authority that will help finance the project and provide related commercial advice and support.

The Viasat RTE system will be a hybrid space and ground network, which is expected to make Earth observation and remote sensing cheaper and faster.

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Viasat RTE networks are used by low-Earth orbit (LEO) satellite operators to bring environmental, shipping and resources sector users access to data on demand without having to invest in a dedicated antenna system.

Viasat said satellite design and launch services have advanced but capability to collect and disseminate data has lagged. Its RTE network aims to address that shortfall.

 

The Alice Springs facility will comprise two Viasat full-motion antenna systems and associated infrastructure and will be part of the Viasat RTE network, complementing other sites in North America, South America and Europe.

CfAT chief executive Dr Steve Rogers said working with Viasat and IBA on development of the RTE facility demonstrated their capacity to contribute positively to technology and space advances in outback Australia.

“The development will provide a positive contribution to the local economy through contract opportunities for local businesses during the facility construction phase, and ongoing employment opportunities for local Aboriginal people once operational,” he said.

“The CfAT facilities management team will be providing on-going site maintenance."

IBA chief executive Rajiv Viswanathan said this was a lighthouse project to show the world that Aborignal people could be a the forefront of new technology industries.

"CfAT is a successful Aboriginal corporation that has for many years been at the vanguard of technology innovation and application in remote Australia,” he said.

“We expect the RTE facility at CfAT's headquarters will create a platform from which CfAT can grow its business in Australia and, potentially, globally as it looks to generate commercial returns for CfAT as well as flow-on benefits for the local economy.”

John Williams, vice president of Real-Time Earth at Viasat, said partnering with CfAT and IBA would enable them to build a state-of-the-art RTE ground station advancing remote sensing data delivery around the world.

“We are revolutionising data delivery for LEO satellites, bringing affordability and lower latency communications to Earth observation and remote sensing applications. The Alice Springs community will be a big part in our development and execution of these advancements,” he said.

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