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Thales partners with USYD, HEO Robotics for new R&D project

Charbel Kadib

The organisations have agreed to collaborate to explore new technologies capable of autonomously detecting and tracking space objects.

Thales partners with USYD, HEO Robotics for new R&D project
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Thales Australia has signed a research agreement with the University of Sydney (USYD) and Australian start-up HEO Robotics, aimed at identifying new technologies for autonomous vision-based space object detection and tracking.

The research agreement is expected to centre on the identification of sensor technologies capable of operating on in-orbit platforms, in support of both space domain awareness and closer proximity navigation and inspection requirements, which form part of docking and maintenance intervention operations.

The project, funded by the SmartSat Cooperative Research Centre (CRC), will initially involve a scoping study phase, which could evolve into further capability development phases.   

According to Thales Australia, the commitment forms part of its strategic statement of intent signed with the Australian Space Agency in December 2019, designed to support the growth of a sovereign Australian space industry.

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“Thales Australia has a long and proud history of partnering with academia and SMEs to develop next-generation sovereign technologies,” Michael Clark, director technical strategy at Thales Australia, said.

“This research project is no exception, and is another great example of demonstrating how collaboration will help grow sovereign space capability, while providing additional opportunities for SMEs to feed into our global projects.”

Professor Willy Zwaenepoel, dean of the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Sydney, added, “This project represents an outstanding opportunity to engage with a global industry leader in the area of satellite systems, while also nurturing our domestic capability in Australia.

“This project will engage our staff and students in the development of state-of-the-art satellite capabilities.

“Having recently been designated as the Academic Institution of the Year at the Australian Space Awards, the University of Sydney is in a unique position to deliver on the proposed project outcomes.”

William Crowe, CEO of HEO Robotics, welcomed the opportunity to work with Thales and the University of Sydney.

“HEO Robotics is an ambitious Australian space start-up that is already supplying customers with insights using our HEO Inspect product,” he said.

“We’re pleased to work with the likes of Thales Australia and the University of Sydney to supercharge our development and feed into the global supply chain of leading space companies.”

SmartSat CEO Professor Andy Koronios said the agreement was a “fine example” of the federal government’s efforts to foster industry collaboration.

“This is being recognised internationally and demonstrates future opportunities for Australian companies in the global space ecosystem,” he said.

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