Space technology a journey into the future

SpaceX will soon set a record for the most satellites ever deployed in orbit on a US rocket.

A cubesat, developed by UNSW Canberra Space, is among these 64 satellites. They represent 17 countries across the globe and include commercial and government entities.

Space is more than just missions to Mars. Of these 64 satellites, one will study ocean ecosystems, another will make commercial shipping safer with up-to-date weather tracking. UNSW Canberra’s satellite, M1, has been funded by the Royal Australian Air Force for maritime surveillance.

We are more dependent on space technology than ever before and these satellites are just a demonstration of how it can be used.

The mission of UNSW Canberra Space is to deliver state-of-the-art space research, technology and education that helps meet national and international challenges and opportunities.

We rely on space for ultra-secure communications, environmental monitoring and management, improving emergency management for extreme weather events and bushfires, enabling the full potential of future smart cities and precision agriculture, and mitigating space congestion risks.  

Australia has typically relied on other countries to provide us with necessary space-derived data, but the national conversation about space has changed completely over the past few years.

What we’re seeing now, throughout government, is an understanding that it is critically important for Australia to operate in space, both from a security point of view and economically.

The Australian Space Agency, formed in July by the Australian Government, will provide a more cohesive and coordinated approach to space capability.

Instead of playing catch-up to the world, we can now couple our skills and expertise in space with our capabilities in disruptive technologies such as quantum technologies, artificial intelligence and autonomous systems.

Yesterday, the CSIRO announced that it would acquire Australia’s first cubesat designed to detect invisible infrared light. This will be valuable in detecting bushfires through smoke and the development of tropical cyclones.

The global space industry is now worth AU$420 billion per annum and growing by 10 per cent each year. UNSW Canberra Space looks forward to playing a leading role in growing the space sector.

Professor Russell Boyce is Director of UNSW Canberra Space.