As the research community in Antarctica has grown, so too has the demand for data – a demand that traditional space and terrestrial communications services are unable to meet.
The Antarctic Broadband program will establish a high-quality communications service for the international research community in Antarctica. Using small-satellite technology customised for the needs of users in the Antarctic region, the program will provide the hardest-to-reach continent with dedicated links to the rest of the world.
Antarctic Broadband is supported under the Australian Government’s Australian Space Research Program (ASRP). The ASRP provides $40 million over four years, through a competitive merit-based grants program, to support space-related research, education and innovation activities. Antarctic Broadband was selected as one of the first-round winners of the ASRP, having been funded for $2.1 million in early 2010.
The successful execution of the Antarctic Broadband program will provide Australia with a vastly superior communications capability in the Antarctic region for many years to come. When complete, the Antarctic Broadband service will directly support research in the Antarctic across areas including climate change, astronomy, ecosystems and meteorology.
The immediate and enduring benefits to Australia from this first stage project alone include:
- The creation of new spaceflight-driven partnerships and relationships, high-technology companies already active within the Australian industry
- The creation of new paths for research, new thesis topics for graduate and undergraduate students, and a new market for companies supporting the delivery of data services to and from the Antarctic research and tourism communities
- The immediate creation of new employment opportunities and undergraduate internships, along with the potential for the creation of many more within the international aerospace community
- The revalidation of Australia’s ability to contribute on a world scale to the provision of urgently needed telecommunications services. The need we have identified is enduring and international in scope. Furthermore, the technical expertise and capabilities established in Australia by this project include:
- The capability to design nano- and small-satellite systems, developed in collaboration with the University of Toronto Space Flight Laboratory
- The capability to design, manufacture and test small-satellite communications payloads
- A rapid prototyping integration and test capability for small-satellite payloads, which will reside at ANU Mt Stromlo
- A satellite ground station capability at ANU Mt Stromlo.