Nov '23

Space Domain Awareness project utilises radio astronomy … – Government of Western Australia

Researchers from the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR-Curtin) translated radio astronomy capability to design and develop a flexible, deployable and covert sensor system with the potential to operate as an inexpensive, highly configurable and covert passive radar.   
Space-based systems play a vital role in Defence operations — from providing valuable information, to enabling personnel and platforms to stay connected. The ability to operate effectively in space is critical to Defence’s ability to protect and defend Australia’s national interests.   
Space environments are becoming increasingly congested with satellites and debris. Space Domain Awareness (SDA) systems utilising new developments in communications technology are needed to help Defence maintain awareness and control of the battlespace, mitigating any environmental effects.  
“As an SDA tool, the system has comparable sensitivity and deployability to other commercial systems and may be able to be calibrated to meet specific Defence use cases as they are presented to us,” said lead researcher and Associate Professor Dr. Randall Wayth, from ICRAR-Curtin.   
“As currently designed, the system has the potential to be used as passive radar for stealth aircraft that would otherwise be difficult to detect at normal radar frequencies.”  
ICRAR researchers prototyped their portable sensor system based on existing radio astronomy technology, deploying it in a variety of scenarios to illustrate its flexibility and suitability for integrated intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.   
“Sensor technologies for SDA vary considerably in size, complexity, cost, and operating frequency. With this system, we demonstrate the potential for inexpensive low frequency interferometric aperture array technology to operate as a passive radar for SDA,” said Associate Professor Wayth.   
“In building and demonstrating this prototype, ICRAR-Curtin has taken skills, technologies, techniques, and expertise developed in the course of our core business of radio astronomy, and applied them to a Defence purpose, producing a system that operates at a Technology Readiness Level 6.”  
The CRG project provided researchers with the opportunity to leverage existing capabilities and experience in WA’s manufacturing sector.   
Researchers contracted with local engineering firm Geng, as well as WA manufacturer, Osborne Motors, to establish a WA-based sovereign supply chain with the capability and capacity to contribute to defence’s current and emerging space capability needs.   
Looking to the future, Associate Professor Wayth says discussions with collaborators from industry and government are ongoing, with the aim of achieving real-time data processing capability, improving the potential for application to various Defence and security challenges.  
The DSC, part of the Department of Jobs, Tourism, Science and Innovation, offers support to Western Australian institutions to develop local capabilities and research to find solutions for current and future Defence developments.  
Learn more about Defence Science Centre grants programs
The Government of Western Australia acknowledges the traditional custodians throughout Western Australia and their continuing connection to the land, waters and community. We pay our respects to all members of the Aboriginal communities and their cultures; and to Elders both past and present.




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