CSIRO, NSW government back new space startup

By Shannon Jenkins

Tuesday May 4, 2021

csiro-space-satellites
Quasar’s ground station service will communicate with hundreds of satellites simultaneously. (Image: CSIRO)

The CSIRO and the Office of the NSW Chief Scientist and Engineer have launched a new startup that hopes to enable satellite ground stations to communicate with hundreds of space satellites at once.

The CSIRO on Tuesday announced that startup Quasar Satellite Technologies would build space communications technology using an Australian-based team, with expertise and research support from the CSIRO.

“CSIRO’s technology breakthrough enabled the world to connect without wires using fast WiFi, and now our technology will help connect satellites using our breakthrough phased array technology,” chief executive Dr Larry Marshall said in a statement.

The Office of the NSW Chief Scientist and Engineer and the CSIRO, along with partners Main Sequence, Vocus, Saber Astronautics, Fleet Space Technologies, and Clearbox Systems, have backed the startup with $12 million in funding, technology and industry expertise.

While more than 57,000 satellites will be launched worldwide over the next decade, present-day ground stations can typically only track one satellite at a time, the CSIRO noted. This will likely lead to heavy congestion, hindering the potential of satellites and the downstream industries they support.

Every satellite needs a home base to communicate with on Earth but present-day satellite ground stations typically track one satellite at a time, leading to heavy congestion and limiting the successful deployment of satellites and the downstream industries they support. Credit: CSIRO

Quasar will use the technology for radio telescopes, like the CSIRO’s ASKAP radio telescope in Western Australia.

Dr Ilana Feain, CSIRO commercialisation specialist and a founding director of Quasar, said CSIRO’s phased array technology “revolutionised radio astronomy” by enabling ASKAP to see about 30 times the area of the sky that conventional telescopes see.

“I’m excited to see the next evolution of this technology empower satellite businesses and their downstream industries,” she said.

The technology will enable new satellite-based business models and opportunities that have been held back by legacy ground station technology, according to Quasar CEO Phil Ridley.

“Space is the highway of the stars, but current ground station technology is the equivalent of one-lane on-ramps,” he said.

“By making it possible to communicate with hundreds of satellites simultaneously, we’ll be able to ensure the thousands of satellites launching over the next decade have a way to call home efficiently.”

Quasar will offer the technology ‘as a service’, which the CSIRO said would allow commercial and public sector partners to access data from satellites in low, medium and geostationary orbit from anywhere in the world.


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