The almost $1.2 billion program will be led by the Australian Space Agency in partnership with CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency, and Geoscience Australia, the Bureau of Meteorology and Department of Defence.
Earth observation satellites are central to the lives of everyday Australians – from forecasting the weather and responding to natural disasters, to managing the environment and supporting farmers.
CSIRO Chief Executive Dr Larry Marshall said: “Australia has been supporting international space missions for over 60 years and during this time has built a strong track record in Earth observation.
“Through this new suite of satellites, we will further develop the nation’s sovereign satellite capability, improving our ability to respond to seemingly impossible challenges.”
Dr Marshall said the program would also exploit Australia’s natural advantage.
“Our southern hemisphere location and natural diversity including forests, deserts, and coastal areas, means we’re ideally placed to establish a world-leading satellite calibration and validation ground station network.
“This will allow us to provide essential verification services to satellite operators both here at home, as well as those around the world.
“We look forward to collaborating with the Australian Space Agency and other partners to turn science into solutions and grow Australia’s space industry with the rocket fuel of science-led innovation,” Dr Marshall said.
CSIRO will deliver several components of the NSMEO program:
- New Earth observation satellites: The program will build sovereign space industry capability through the design, construction, launch and ongoing operation of several new Earth observation satellites. These will be procured by the Australian Space Agency, operated by Geoscience Australia, and CSIRO will support the design, technical specification and calibration of the satellites. CSIRO’s contribution will also be to design, build and manage a new satellite data hub to make the data collected by the satellites accessible to end users; and CSIRO will build a global science collaboration network team to maximise value and support key applications from the satellite data.
- New satellite calibration and validation infrastructure: CSIRO will lead the development and maintenance of a national network of several new ground-based satellite calibration and validation sites across Australia. This infrastructure network will support domestic and international operators to calibrate their satellites and verify the data they collect to ensure its accuracy.
CSIRO’s role in the NSMEO program will build on its established Australian and global track record in observing Earth from space. This includes:
- Managing current satellite calibration and validation sites at Lucinda Jetty in Queensland and the Pinnacles in Western Australia.
- Providing Australian researchers with access to European-owned satellite data through the Copernicus Australasia Regional Data Hub, which is managed in partnership between CSIRO and Geoscience Australia, the state governments of Queensland, New South Wales and Western Australia, and Landgate.
- Developing the OpenDataCube with Geoscience Australia and NCI, a high-performance open-source data management system that now has over 50 DataCube implementations globally with partners including NASA.
- Operating a 10% share of the UK-owned NovaSAR-1 satellite as a national research facility to provide Australian scientists with access to sophisticated new satellite radar capability and a data archive.
- Applying our modelling and analytics capabilities to problems such as managing feral buffalo in Northern Australia, identifying paddock boundaries, water quality assessments in coastal and inland waters, and supporting mineral exploration.
These new initiatives demonstrate the Australian Space Agency’s Earth Observation from Space Roadmap 2021-2030 in action, setting the foundation for more complex space missions in the future while growing the Australian space industry.