Space start-up Quasar takes off with CSIRO

The latest evolution of CSIRO's phased array technology will help Quasar's ground station service to communicate with hundreds of satellites simultaneously. Image credit: CSIRO

New Australian space startup Quasar Satellite Technologies is set to revolutionise space communication, allowing ground stations to talk to hundreds of satellites at once using technology developed by CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency.

Over the next decade, more than 57,000 satellites will be launched worldwide to support a surge in demand for space-derived data, from environmental monitoring such as bushfires and floods, to connecting to sensors on “Internet of Things” networks.

CSIRO CEO, Dr Larry Marshall, said after helping receive images of humans on the Moon fifty years ago, the commercialisation of this breakthrough research would now help put more Australians into new jobs in the growing space industry.

“CSIRO has been a leader in radio astronomy and spacecraft communications for more than 60 years, from supporting the Moon landing in 1969 to invesatelnting and delivering the phased-array feeds in Australia’s newest radio telescope, ASKAP in Western Australia,” Dr Marshall said.

“CSIRO’s technology breakthrough enabled the world to connect without wires using fast WiFi, and now our technology will help connect satellites using our breakthrough phased array technology.”

Quasar is building the technology using an Australian-based team with expertise and research support from CSIRO.

Quasar CEO Phil Ridley, a telecommunications veteran behind some of Australia’s pioneering internet services like BigPond and Vividwireless, said the technology would enable new satellite-based business models and opportunities previously hindered by legacy ground station technology.

“Space is the highway of the stars, but current ground station technology is the equivalent of one-lane on-ramps,” he said.

“By making it possible to communicate with hundreds of satellites simultaneously, we’ll be able to ensure the thousands of satellites launching over the next decade have a way to call home efficiently.”

Quasar will offer the technology as a service to enable commercial and public sector partners to access data from satellites in low, medium and geostationary orbit from anywhere in the world, in the same way many cloud computing services work today.

CSIRO commercialisation specialist and a founding Director of Quasar, Dr Ilana Feain, said bringing together state of the art technology, private investment and industry expertise gave Quasar a strong head start.

“CSIRO’s phased array technology revolutionised radio astronomy by enabling ASKAP to see enormous portions of the sky at once – about 30 times the area that conventional telescopes could see,” Dr Feain said.

“I’m excited to see the next evolution of this technology empower satellite businesses and their downstream industries.”

However, with present-day ground stations typically tracking one satellite at a time, heavy congestion is expected to limit the potential of satellites and the downstream industries they support.