South Australian companies are working to develop mini satellites that will be launched into space to protect Australia’s defence force.
- SA companies are developing satellites capable of detecting potentially dangerous radar signals from enemy forces
- A rocket launched next month will release a device to collect data for the satellite project
- DEWC Systems hopes the satellites will be released into space by 2023
The satellites, being developed by DEWC Systems, will be capable of detecting potentially dangerous radar signals from enemy forces.
Ian Spencer, CEO of DEWC Systems, said this sort of electronic warfare (EW) was becoming increasingly important.
“All weapons that are used, other than in man-to-man combat, have some sort of targeting or guidance system that rely on radars,” Mr Spencer said.
Mr Spencer said the cube satellites would help detect radar signals coming from enemy aircraft and ships some distance away.
“That gives you a technological advantage and a better picture so you can avoid unnecessary contact with the enemy,” he said.
“It means you don’t have to be in the line of sight of that radar.
“So, if I’m on an aeroplane for example — we’ve all seen Top Gun and movies like that where they’ll get a missile tone telling them they’ve been locked up by the missile — that’s what EW is, it’s identifying that someone’s using a radar and it’s turned to a particular mode of operation that is dangerous.”
Mr Spencer said it would be “better to know that without having to be the target”.
“So if you’ve got a constellation of cube satellites, that will give you the capability to see past, or look over an area that you might be operating in and try and identify what radars are in there, how they’re operating, and use them to maybe locate enemy aircraft and ships,” he said.
Data for satellite technology collected next month
Next month, a rocket will be launched from the world’s largest privately operated rocket test range near Koonibba, in the far west of South Australia, with a small, replica payload on board.
The payload, which is about the size of a whiteboard marker, will be released from the rocket with the aim of collecting information to develop the satellite technology.
The payload will reach the edge of space and will deploy a parachute before falling back down to Earth.
Once the information is gathered, the satellites will enter a development phase, and it is hoped they will be launched into orbit by the end of 2023.
The Koonibba Test Range has been developed by Southern Launch, which set up its headquarters in Adelaide in September 2018.
The site is particularly unique as it extends out for 145 kilometres over uninhabited national park, whereas many other rocket launch sites are situated near water which can make it difficult to recover equipment.
The Koonibba Test Range is located on Aboriginal land around 40 kilometres north-west of Ceduna, and Southern Launch said it has worked closely with the local Indigenous community.
Southern Launch CEO Llyod Damp said about 14 local Indigenous people would be hired to help on September 15 when the first test launch was set to take place.
“We’re very, very proud and very excited to be employing members of the Koonibba community to help us set up the range as well as operate the range,” Mr Damp said.
“They will be cordoning off roads, interacting with emergency services and working with any members of the public who do go to watch the event.”
Project employs Indigenous locals
Koonibba Community Aboriginal Corporation chairwoman, Kevina Ware, welcomed the training and employment opportunities.
“Community members have done traffic control training, and that’s where the employment will come in,” Ms Ware said.
“[The employees] will be making sure there are roadblocks in place and the area is secure when they do the launch, so that’s good for community members who are on employment benefits.”
Ms Ware said the project could encourage young local children to work in the space sector.
“We could have an aerospace engineer at our school at the moment, just something as simple as this can inspire them,” Ms Ware said.
Mr Damp is hopeful a successful launch next month will bring global attention to the launch site.
“Once we’ve proven all of the capabilities, then this opens the door for other international customers to come to Australia and test and validate their rocket systems before potentially progressing,” he said.
The first test launch will take place on September 15, with a second launch scheduled for September 19.
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