A brand-new observatory designed, built, and managed by Silentium Defence has been opened in South Australia.
According to Silentium Defence, the ‘Oculus Observatory’ is a "new kind of space observatory" which delivers the widest field of view, and the most cost-effective monitoring of objects in orbit, anywhere in the world.
Opened on Thursday 9 December by Head of the Australian Space Agency, Enrico Palermo, ‘Oculus’ is located on the fringe of South Australia’s dark sky reserve in the Mid-Murray region.
Dr James Palmer, CEO Silentium Defence said “this new generation space observatory will provide high quality and timely data for more informed decision making, traffic management and collision avoidance in space.
“Unlike traditional space surveillance technologies that provide a narrow view of debris and objects in orbit, the sensors at our observatory provide coverage of an area the size of South Australia.
“For customers, this means we will detect and track objects they expect to see, like satellites and catalogued debris, as well as new and unknown objects that may pose a threat to critical services or assets in space.
“Not only do our sensors detect those objects, but because of our coverage, they maintain visibility and tracking for significantly longer. More observation time creates better information for space operators to make informed decisions about what an object is, where it’s headed, whether it poses a threat and what action to take. ‘Oculus’ is set to be the workhorse of space surveillance, supporting both commercial and government applications.
“To manoeuvre a satellite safely in space takes time. It is a costly exercise that can limit a satellite’s life. Any decision to manoeuvre must be based on the most accurate, up-to-date and informed data, and that’s what our new observatory provides.”
The Silentium Defence ‘Oculus Observatory’ is the first of a planned network of wide-field-of-view observatories to be deployed across the globe. Based on the company’s unique radar technology, its sensors exploit Megawatts of transmitted power from pre-existing transmitters. This means space surveillance radars can be built and commissioned rapidly without spectrum license approvals.
The observatory has been designed and delivered with almost $1.5 million in support from the Australian Government under the ‘International Space Investment’ initiative. There are plans for the observatory to host multiple surveillance sensor types including optical and narrow-field-of-view sensors to support Australia’s broader civil and Defence ambitions of true sovereign capability in space situational awareness.
Initial design and capability testing for integration of various sensor types and data sources is being conducted in partnership with Silentium's ISI-grant partner, Western Sydney University, and with support from the Swedish Space Corporation.
Head of the Australian Space Agency Enrico Palermo said the observatory is a great example of the world-leading technology Australia’s space industry can deliver.
“This new observatory shows the world that not only does Australia offer unique geographic advantage for space observation and tracking, but we have the skills, vision and leadership to design the systems that will keep people, assets and critical services safe.
“The safe, stable and sustainable use of outer space is central to the continued growth of the space sector – both globally and here in Australia.”
South Australian Premier Steven Marshall congratulated Silentium Defence on the project which adds critical capability to the space ecosystem and delivers positive economic impacts for the state.
“South Australia is now firmly established as the centre-of-gravity for the nation’s space endeavours, and Silentium’s Oculus Observatory is a great example of the innovation being fostered here to tackle complex space problems.
“With the local space sector set to create thousands of jobs over the coming decades, it’s exciting to see that these jobs are not just in major metropolitan centres, but in regional areas too with Silentium’s investment delivering hi-tech jobs to the Mid-Murray region where the observatory is located.”