talksatellite   Asia-Pacific    

Daily news




Geoscience Australia preparing to procure two satellite payloads for positioning capability

Geoscience Australia will move quickly to procure two satellite payloads that can support an Australian satellite-based augmentation system aimed at boosting the country's positioning capability and accuracy.

It is also looking to appoint a lead contractor to implement the SBAS technology following funding of $160.9 million over four years in this year's federal budget. Speaking to Space & Satellite AU on the sidelines of the Australasian Satellite Forum in Sydney, Geoscience Australia section leader for positioning John Dawson said the agency is aiming to have the SBAS fully operational within the four-year timeframe. However, given the lead-time needed to procure a payload on a future satellite launch, he said planning had to start immediately.

“We're aiming for a fully operational system for the end of the fourth year and that includes ICAO certification, which is the international civil aviation organisation, so it's actually a pretty demanding timeframe. We understand from industry that it's about a three-year timeframe from order to launch, so on a four-year programme we have to get going pretty fast. So I think you'll hear more from us around procurement in the next six months,” Dawson said.

Geoscience Australia has been conducting a two-year SBAS trial involving 28 projects from across 10 different industry sectors. Dawson told the satellite forum that its work with industry had underpinned its proposal to government to invest in an SBAS. The trial received $12 million from the Australian government and $2 million from the New Zealand government in 2017 and Dawson is hoping for further support from New Zealand as well as potentially other countries in the region to join the system.

“We will continue to work with New Zealand and we see an ongoing strategic relationship with New Zealand. While they haven't yet been funded to contribute to the program, we'd like to think ultimately the two countries will work closely together,” Dawson said.

“While our initial program has been funded for Australia we're very open to partnering with other countries in the region,” he added.

Dawson said the trial technology had impressed participants. It is testing three separate positioning technologies: first-generation SBAS, Precise Point Positioning, and a next-generation SBAS system know as Dual Frequency Multi-Constellation SBAS that can combine signals from both the GPS and Galileo navigation systems.

In the case of DFMC SBAS, Australia was the first country in the world to test the technology, which has since been followed by testing in Japan and Europe. It also looking to support all three positioning technologies in its future procurement.

The test bed uses the Inmarsat-4 F1 satellite, with the signals uplinked from a Lockheed Martin ground station in Uralla in NSW.

Dawson noted that GA had already commenced initial research into its future satellite needs. “About two months ago we went to market with a request for capability to see what capability is there and might exist in the future, so we've got a good view of the upcoming launches of satellites that may have some additional capacity for an extra payload,” he said.

“Obviously we have to find a lead contractor to work with us on delivering the programme, so one with SBAS experience, and then we'll have to identify a satellite, identify a supplier for the instruments and then get into the queue,” Dawson added.

He also predicted the adoption of SBAS capability will see Australia play a greater role in the global navigation satellite system arena. “This effort will enable us to be engaged a bit more in the global standards community and the global community that manage the interoperability of GNSS, so we're going to take a more prominent role in that,” he said.

“Of course the DFMC capability enables us to step out into the full GNSS footprint. That will enable potential cooperation throughout the region and that would be something we'd be interested in pursing both with government and with the private sector,” Dawson added. Geoff Long, Commsday