Nova Systems and Curtin Partner for Space Domain Awareness

The Curtin University node of the International Center for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) has partnered with Nova Systems to prototype a new space domain awareness facility.

The official partnership will provide a prototype passive array radar system, which can locate and track satellites and space debris orbiting Earth.

The prototype is located at Nova Systems’ Space Precinct in north-central South Australia and is based on the adaptation of the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) led by Curtin University, a low-frequency radio telescope for the astrophysics.

“The Passive Array Radar Prototype is a massive step in Australian innovation for collecting big data from space-based sensors,” said Andrew Mannix, Nova Systems Executive Managing Director, Mission Solutions.

“The technology allows us to see the sky from horizon to horizon to detect objects and activities of interest. Due to its wide capacity, it is then useful for signaling other narrow-view sensors to look closer and in more detail.

“Space Domain Awareness is basically tracking the thousands of objects in Earth orbit. It is integral to the national interest and protects against threats in orbit. Australia depends on space for communications, navigation and information from its satellites, so it is imperative that we know what objects are hovering above us that could pose a threat.

“Nova Systems has a strong track record in the space sector, including supporting the delivery of complex space and satellite communication programs and engineering and consulting services such as mission analysis, space domain awareness, launch safety and regulatory support and training.

“Partnering with the Curtin Node at ICRAR is an important step for us as we work closely with academia to innovate and create new capabilities.”

Using a large number of individual antennas, the passive array radar system detects FM radio emissions from radio stations on Earth, which are reflected from objects in space. The network is also capable of performing other space domain reconnaissance tasks, such as space weather monitoring.

ICRAR Deputy Executive Director and John Curtin Distinguished Professor Steven Tingay said the primary goal of the partnership with Nova Systems was to help solve Australia’s space challenges and understand how we see and manage what is happening above us.

“This new partnership will see Curtin University’s ICRAR node bring our deep underlying understanding of astrophysics and engineering technology to the project,” said Professor Tingay.

“In conjunction with Nova Systems, we will perform specific space domain awareness missions, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, as required by potential customers, including the Australian Defense Force.”