A SATELLITE roughly the size of a loaf of bread is being purchased by Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO, in a bid to better monitor environmental conditions.
Designed to detect infrared light, which is invisible to the human eye, the satellite, known as a CubeSat, can be used to identify and monitor a number of land based situations, including flooding, deforestation and bushfires as well as atmospheric changes, including cloud formation in the development of tropical cyclones.
A CSIRO spokesperson said the satellite would complement the data collected by NovaSAR-1, a new radar satellite in which CSIRO has a 10 per cent tasking and data acquisition share.
To be known as CSIROSat-1, the ten centimetre cubic satellite is substantially smaller than traditional satellites, which are about the size of a refrigerator. The size of the technology means the CubeSat is less expensive, faster to build and cheaper to launch than traditional satellites.
The spokesperson said CSIRO expect to launch the satellite in 2020, with the project costing about $2 million in total, funded by a grant from the Science and Industry Endowment Fund, and in-kind support from industry partners.
CSIRO, chief executive and trustee of the Science and Industry Endowment Fund, Dr Larry Marshall said CSIROSat-1 and the data infrastructure supporting it would add another level of capability to Australian science.
“Innovation happens at the intersection of people and disciplines - CSIRO’s strategy is to drive a deeper sharing of our world class infrastructure with the entire system,” Dr Marshall said.
“Space itself is big and Australia is comparatively small - we have to work together to make our mark as a nation.
“Our role as Australia’s national science agency is to help create the industries of the future through excellent science.”
Director of CSIRO’s Centre for Earth Observation Dr Alex Held said South Australia-based start-up Inovor Technologies would design, assemble and build CSIROSat-1.
“CSIRO is committed to collaborating and fostering relationships across the space sector, and with start-ups in particular,” Dr Held said.
“For the CSIROSat-1 project we’re excited to be working together with our build partner, Inovor Technologies.
“It’s critical to engage on these types of technology projects to support local capability and nurture the development of the Australian space industry.”
CEO of Inovor Technologies Dr Matt Tetlow said CSIROSat-1 would be a small satellite made up of three cubes, stacked one on top of the other, about the same size as a loaf of bread.
“CSIROSat-1 will carry a sensor with infrared imaging capability, the first time an Australian satellite has operated in this spectrum,” Dr Tetlow said.
“In addition to collecting information about Earth, it will be a platform for developing advanced on-board data processing capabilities.”