Scientists from the Australian defense ministry are joining forces with colleagues from industry and academia on a satellite communications (SATCOM) research venture that will explore ways of integrating both laser-based optical and radio frequency (RF) communications technologies in a single SATCOM user terminal.
Known as project Chorus, which stands for Compact Hybrid Optical-RF User Segment, this is the defense ministry’s first collaborative project to be launched through the SmartSat Cooperative Research Centre (CRC).
Chief executive officer and managing director of the SmartSat CRC, Andy Koronios, said the SmartSat CRC had established the project to develop Australian technologies that would improve the resilience of military satellite communications and potentially provide leapfrog technology for commercial markets.
“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,” professor Koronios said.
The research effort brings together experts from Defence Science and Technology (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.
During the first phase of the research, the team will assess the viability of different design options and create a virtual representation, or ‘digital twin’, of the CHORUS concept to support the development of a demonstration terminal later in the project.
Funding for Phase 1 represents an investment by the SmartSat CRC and project participants of about AU$1 million over 12 months.
With total funding worth $245 million and involving more than 100 companies, start-ups and research organisations, the SmartSat CRC is Australia’s biggest space industry research-and-development collaboration. The research consortium formally opened for business in February.
The Australian defense ministry will contribute $12 million to the SmartSat CRC over seven years.