Defence launches SATCOM research collaboration

By Amy Sarcevic
Wednesday, 13 May, 2020

Defence launches SATCOM research collaboration

Australian Defence scientists are to collaborate with industry and academia on a satellite communications (SATCOM) research venture that could enhance military capability.

The high-risk, high-payoff venture will explore ways of integrating laser-based optical and radiofrequency (RF) communications technologies in a single SATCOM user terminal.

Project CHORUS (compact hybrid optical-RF user segment) will be the first collaboration Defence has launched via its $245 million SmartSat Cooperative Research Centre (CRC), which opened in February.

CRC Chief Executive and Managing Director Professor Andy Koronios said the initiative could pay off dividends, not just for the military, but also for the commercial sector.

“The SmartSat CRC, in partnership with Defence, has established this project in order to develop world-leading Australian technologies that will improve the resilience of military satellite communications, and potentially provide leapfrog technology for commercial markets,” he said.

“By combining optical and RF communications, satellite operators will have more options to provide high-availability, high-capacity and high-resilience satellite communications services without requiring additional access to scarce and expensive radio spectrum.”

Dr Gerald Bolding, Senior Research Scientist – Protected Satellite Communications within Defence Science and Technology’s (DST) Cyber and Electronic Warfare Division, added that the benefits of this scheme could be far-reaching.

“We are seeking to provide satellite operators with the best of both worlds, combining the high data transfer rates and enhanced security promised by optical communications with the reliability of traditional RF communications,” said Dr Bolding.

“The end result will be the development of innovative technology options for integrating hybrid optical-RF SATCOM terminals into military aircraft, land vehicles and ships.”

Phase 1 of the research will cost $1 million over 12 months and involve the assessment of various design options before the creation of a virtual representation.

The research effort brings together experts from DST, industry partners EOS Space Systems and EM Solutions, Lyrebird Antenna Research and Shoal Group, and academic partners the Australian National University and the University of South Australia.

Image caption: Taipan satellite terminal. (Credit: EM Solutions)

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