Financing of space projects confirmed in budget

The federal government will spend approximately $1.2 billion on the development and construction of local satellites as part of its commitment to the space industry.

The funding was confirmed in last night’s budget, coming on the heels of duplicate announcements about Australian satellite delivery and an Adelaide satellite proof of concept.

The federal budget’s new satellite project aims to provide an economic support structure for local space industries — about 100 of which will be involved — and to provide Earth observation as part of the country’s critical infrastructure.

The 14th Australian Space Forum in Adelaide yesterday announced plans for the new satellites.

“In the coming months, we will see some of the most advanced satellites we have launched into space as a nation,” Australian Space Agency chief Enrico Palermo told the crowd of industrial, academic and defense delegates.

SpaceX is booked in December to deliver a 300-kilogram satellite, the largest Australian-made payload to go into space.

The launch of five small satellites weighing a total of 300 kg is a proof of concept mission. Skykraft aims to establish a constellation capable of tracking and relaying aircraft location data. This space-based air traffic management system will eliminate commercial flight tracking over “blind spots” such as remote parts of Australia and oceans.

The Skykraft constellation, which it is hoped will eventually consist of 210 satellites, is designed and manufactured in Australia and uses local supply chains.

The SA government’s flagship Kanyini, developed by Adelaide-based space network company Myriota, has secured space aboard a SpaceX Transporter mission now slated to launch early next year.

The 12 kg CubeSat will orbit 500 km above the Earth. It will carry an Internet of Things (IoT) data relay system and a newly developed ‘hyperspectral’ camera.

“Kanyini will provide anywhere, anytime access to critical data needed to help improve and monitor water quality, crop health and forest fire resilience,” said Dr. David Haley, co-founder of Myriota.

It is a demonstration project collaboration between Myriota, SA-based satellite builder Inovor Technologies, and the SmartSat Cooperative Research Center.

SmartSat CEO Professor Andy Koronios says the new camera would collect real-time data to aid forest fire preparations and firefighting. It will be used to monitor fuel loads in eucalyptus bushes and measure soil moisture content. “Other real-world applications of the data collected by Kanyini include satellite-based smoke detection for forest fire reduction and monitoring inland and coastal water quality.”

Kanyini is a Pitjantjatjara term for the ‘principle of responsibility and unconditional love for all creation.

Skykraft is one of the first products of the Australian aerospace industry incubator efforts, emerging from the University of New South Wales in 2017.

Barring any technical or weather delays, the Skykraft launch will conclude a successful year for Australia’s embryonic space industry.

A Skykraft Block II satellite model is installed at the Australian Space Discovery Center.

This story was first published in Cosmos Science Journal

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