Aerospace giant Airbus will be the lead partner in the Defense Space Research Program to ensure Australian forces have assured access to satellite services. Adelaide space companies Inovor Technologies and Shoal Group will support the new program alongside multinational consultancy Deloitte.
The Airbus arrangement was announced in an update to the Defense Resilient Multi-mission Space STaR Shot research program on Wednesday.
Defense has already purchased two Airbus Arrow 150 satellite buses worth over $20 million under the program, with technologies and payloads developed in Australia to be outfitted for launch into more contested and congested orbit. .
Launched in 2020, STaR Shots, or Science Technology and Research Shots, are long-term defense missions aimed at aligning strategic research with force structure priorities.
Currently, there are eight STaR Shots, managed by the Defense Science and Technology group and covering areas such as information warfare, remote underwater surveillance and navigation, and quantum assured position synchronization.
The objective of the Resilient Multi-mission Space STaR Shot is to design, manufacture, launch and operate at least four exemplary small satellite missions (up to 200 kg) over a decade-long program. Each satellite will contain a number of payloads related to one or more of the identified S&T themes:
- Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR),
- Non-Geostationary Satellite Communications,
- Spatial Domain Awareness (SDA),
- Spatial autonomy, and
- Resilient spatial systems and concepts
A strategic partner had been sought to meet the satellite integration requirements, including design, manufacturing, integration and operations support, in conjunction with other program partners from Defense, SmartSat CRC, industry, universities and international networks.
Chief Defense Scientist Professor Tanya announced on Wednesday that the partnership with Airbus had been selected.
She said that along with industry partners Inovor Technologies, Shoal Group and Deloitte, the program will be supported by university partners and a range of Australian small and medium-sized businesses.
“This is a true collaboration between government, industry and academia that will help position our growing Australian space sector to deliver future sovereign space technologies and operational capabilities,” she said. said in a statement.
As Australia’s domestic space sector expands rapidly, Defense has opted for the European giant’s smaller 150-kilogram Arrow satellites.
“The Arrow satellites offer some of the first possible opportunities to take Australian-developed defense payloads into space,” Professor Monro said.
“As our national space sector matures, we will use locally designed and built satellites which are expected to be the most ambitious satellites ever designed and built in Australia.”
The US Space Development Agency also uses Airbus to supply its low Earth orbit constellation for the US Defense Forces, but opted for a much larger Arrow 450 bus – designed to be scaled from 300 kilograms to 500 kilograms.
Australia’s partnership with Airbus Defense represents an investment of over $40 million in satellite technologies.
“Autonomy in space technologies is essential if we want to ensure the defense and security of the country,” Professor Monro said.
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