• Spire Global satellite in low-Earth orbit. (Supplied)
    Spire Global satellite in low-Earth orbit. (Supplied)

The first investments under the UK-Australia Space Bridge have been awarded to five collaborative research projects in the areas of earth observation, agriculture, space communications, and quantum technologies for space.

The Space Bridge program, which was managed and led by SmartSatCRC in collaboration with the other funding partners, was supported by Austrade, the Australian Space Agency, the UK Government and UK Space Agency. Respondents were required to have partners from the UK and Australia, with a minimum of one industry partner. The five selected projects were asked to address four topic areas identified as strategically beneficial to the mutual interests of each country.

The five projects will explore and advance satellite technologies for a range of uses including: Antarctic Sea ice detection; plant breeding programs and agricultural yield forecasting; preventing cyber-attacks on future financial encryption services; improving stability of next generation satellite communication links under changing weather conditions; and establishing commercial opportunities for Earth Observation calibration and validation facilities for upcoming missions of each country.

The projects selected are:

  • Cal/Val Space Bridge: An Earth Observation Partnership (Symbios Communications, Frontier SI and Assimila Ltd, The National Physical Laboratory)

  • Modelling novel radio spectrum bands for next generation satellite networks (RMIT University and OneWeb)

  • IceCube: Monitoring Antarctic sea-ice with small satellites (UNSW Sydney, University of Tasmania (Australia Australian Centre of Excellence in Antarctic Science, Australian Antarctic Program Partnership) and Spire Global UK, British Antarctic Survey)

  • Australia’s Quantum Leap: to satellite quantum encryption (Arqit Limited and Australian National University)

  • Harvesting hyperspectral satellite data to improve crop production (Digital Content Analysis Technology Ltd, InterGrain, and The Plant Accelerator, Australian Plant Phenomics Facility, The University of Adelaide)

SmartSat Chief Executive Officer Professor Andy Koronios said the projects are the first significant research activities under the Space Bridge Arrangement and the high level of interest demonstrated the appetite in both countries for collaborative opportunities.

“We have had an incredible response to this, the first collaborative initiative of the UK-Australia Space Bridge framework," Professor Koronios said. "We offer our sincere congratulations to the winning project proponents and are in no doubt that this is the first of many similar partnerships between Australia and the United Kingdom.

"The Australian Space Agency’s Roadmaps and the recently released UK Space Strategy will provide great guidance in building strong and mutually beneficial partnerships between our space industries and academia."

The five projects must be completed by 30 June 2022 and were selected on their potential for larger future collaborative research projects which will 'grow industry capacity, provide an innovative end-product or capability, and build upon the respective space ecosystems of each country'.

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