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UNSW researchers receive CRC-P grant to develop space traffic management

Stephen Kuper

A team of researchers based at UNSW Canberra have received funding to support the development of a new sensor that will better identify and track satellites in orbit in order to ensure they remain in the correct orbit and avoid colliding, which is a step closer thanks to a new multi-partner project.

UNSW researchers receive CRC-P grant to develop space traffic management
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The team from UNSW Canberra led by Dr Melrose Brown will work alongside Clearbox Systems, Capricorn Space and Bluerydge to develop a unique Australian radio frequency (RF) sensor for satellite identification, tracking and collision avoidance.

Dr Brown said that the space traffic management system is being developed at a time when the global space sector is undergoing unprecedented change. 

"There is a projected twenty-fold increase in the number of satellites in orbit by 2025. In addition, new technologies are enabling satellites to constantly change orbit, which poses a significant challenge to legacy space traffic management systems," Dr Brown explained. 

The new system will identify satellites from their transmitted signal characteristics, offering high precision tracking that can operate day or night. The RF sensor network will integrate with optical telescopes and advanced artificial intelligence algorithms being developed by Australia’s leading space mission team, UNSW Canberra Space.

Dr Brown added, "The new sensor system we are developing will make an important contribution to the global effort to safely and sustainably manage the growing population of satellites orbiting Earth into the future.

"An exciting outcome from the collaboration are the industry-focused education opportunities, which enable students in our undergraduate, online Space Masters and PhD streams the opportunity to gain direct experience with these important technologies and concepts."

Another major goal of the project is to grow Australia’s human capital and skills base in the field of space domain awareness.

UNSW Canberra is leading innovative Australian research in space, with a capability to now routinely conceptualise, develop, and fly affordable, responsible, in-orbit missions.

Its in-orbit missions enable the development of innovative new technologies for spacecraft, including distributed, networked experiments and sensors across formations, swarms and assemblies of CubeSats.

The UNSW Canberra Space capability performs high impact science and technology development that will in turn make a significant contribution to meeting Australia’s (and the international community's) need for safe and secure access to space-based technologies for strategic, economic and social benefit.

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