ITR celebrates ten years of excellence

Landmark achievements in Australian satellite communications and space science research were celebrated on the ten year anniversary of the launch of FedSat.

Landmark achievements in Australian satellite communications and space science research were celebrated at a networking and showcase event hosted by the Institute for Telecommunication Research. Held on Friday December 14, the occasion highlighted the ten year anniversary of the launch of FedSat, Australia’s 58kg microsatellite, and also acknowledged the continuing success of the Australian Space Research Program.

The launch of FedSat on 14 December 2002 provided a landmark moment in Australia’s satellite and space and communication research. Developed by the Cooperative Research Centre for Satellite Systems (CRCSS), the FedSat project harnessed and further developed the expertise and resources from Australian universities, commercial organisations and government bodies. It established Australia as an international participant in space science and small satellite research and development.

The FedSat mission ran for over four years and allowed the testing and refinement of new technologies in satellite computing, positioning technologies and communications. It also collected invaluable scientific data on space weather and radiowave propagation. The project left an enduring legacy of expertise and infrastructure that continues in the current Australian Space Research Program.

Developing a complete communications system, and as host of the FedSat ground station, the Institute for Telecommunications Research (ITR) played an integral role in the program. Throughout the project the ITR S-Band ground station at Mawson Lakes provided telemetry, tracking and control (TT&C) services to FedSat on a daily basis.  The facility has since been used to track numerous international missions from Europe and the United States.

Since FedSat, ITR has continued to play a key part in Australia in satellite communications research. ITR is the lead institution in a consortium that was awarded $5 million in 2010 to deliver a complete architecture for remote sensor data gathering via low earth orbit satellites. The Global Sensor Network Program is supported under the Australian Government’s Australian Space Research Program as part of a $12.5 million program running from 2011 to 2013.

The event was attended by more than 70 people including current and former ITR staff members and students, CRC for Satellite Systems (CRCSS) team members, industry representatives and guests.

Proceedings began with a presentation from Emeritus Professor Mike Miller, founding Director of ITR and a key person involved in the formation of the CRCSS. A speech from Professor Andrew Parfitt, former CEO of the CRCSS and Divisional Pro Vice Chancellor at the University of South Australia, who oversaw the launch and research activities of the FedSat program, then followed. ITR Director, Professor Alex Grant then outlined ITR’s continued endeavours in the space program with particular reference to the current Global Sensor Network Program that envisions the use of microsatellites for remote monitoring on a global scale. Guests also toured ITR’s newly renovated facilitates and were provided with a demonstration of the Global Sensor Network Program, and the satellite Ground Station tracking facility. The event concluded with an informal networking lunch that continued well into the afternoon.

Brett Biddington AM, Chair of the Space Industry Association of Australia and Adjunct Professor at Edith Cowan University, praised the event for providing a fitting tribute to the FedSat mission and its continued influence on the Australian space program, “Civil space activity in Australia has had a bumpy ride. FedSat, however, is part of the good news story.  FedSat was a remarkable achievement for the Australian scientists, engineers and technicians who built it in a small factory in Canberra and then operated it successfully from ITR in Adelaide.”

“The FedSat legacy is substantial. The project spawned 70 PhDs and some of the technology has been inserted into the current ITR project that is funded through the Australian Space Research Program.  ITR, building on past success, seeks to develop new techniques and processes which will find commercial application in a world of ubiquitous connectivity in a mobile world,” he said.