Australian start-up Quasar Satellite Technologies (‘Quasar’) has launched its world first Space Domain Awareness (SDA) capabilities.
Quasar’s fully digital multibeam satellite ground stations – devised within Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO – will revolutionise the space industry, enabling government, defence and intelligence agencies, as well as private organisations, to establish a rich view of every satellite in orbit – a previously impossible feat.
To be unveiled at the SFA’s Inaugural Spacepower Conference, Quasar’s fully software-defined phased array antennas provide ground stations many steerable electronic beams to characterise and access data from satellites in low, medium, and geostationary orbit (LEO, MEO and GEO). It is a crucial asset for government space programs, geopolitical risk assessment, national security, intelligence initiatives and anomaly detection.
Quasar’s technology is unique in that it has no moving parts and supports multiple space missions simultaneously on the same antenna, including powerful all-sky SDA and radio spectrum monitoring capabilities. One Quasar ground station replaces hectares of traditional parabolical dishes which are mechanically steered and use technology that is decades old in design.
“There are about 8,200 satellites currently in orbit; McKinsey forecasts there could be more than 65,000 by 2030, however industry figures suggest this number may even reach 100,000. Existing technologies can’t meet the scope of this new demand; parabolic dishes can only focus on one satellite at a time, require abundant physical space, and are expensive to operate and maintain,” said Phil Ridley, CEO at Quasar.
Quasar digital antenna technologies are complemented by a comprehensive software platform that includes 24×7 dedicated communications ground station as a service (GSaaS) capability tailored for all mission types. With the capacity offered by the system, Quasar can offer guaranteed communications for missions of all sizes – from single satellites to large constellations.
“Through rigorous testing we have demonstrated our phased array can track multiple satellites in the sky, across multiple orbits, simultaneously. That means government, defence and intelligence agencies can ‘hear the whole sky’ for active satellite transmissions and provide real-time, actionable radio-frequency information to characterise transmitting objects instantly. There is no other technology today which has this ability,” said Ridley.
“There is an increasing push for SDA from civil, commercial and government defence and intelligence agencies, so we expect to work closely with those parties in the near future,” said Ridley. “The ability to understand all transmitting objects and their associated signal characterisation data is crucial in the space game – military and intelligence teams are yearning to understand what has happened, what is happening and what might happen in the future. That includes whether satellites have moved or had their transmissions changed, where those transmissions originate, instances of deliberate disruptive activity or interference, electronic warfare, and more.”
Quasar’s technology will be available to Five Eyes and Quad nations and their allies. The US is the company’s primary target market, alongside Australia, the United Kingdom, India, South Korea, Japan, and New Zealand. Quasar has already received a purchase request, with demonstrations scheduled for additional government and commercial entities.
“This represents a remarkable opportunity for Australia – one that stands to not only benefit government agencies and businesses, but also every citizen. Satellites are crucial for many aspects of modern life, including the ability to monitor for and assess the impact of natural disasters, better understand our environment and bolster agriculture and farming, and much more. The data unlocked by seeing satellite in orbit drives opportunities in all of these instances. As an Australian product, there are also immense export perks to boost the economy as international demand soars, while bolstering our nation’s space credentials,” said Ridley
Quasar launched in 2021 with AU$8.7 million in seed funding from Main Sequence, CSIRO and four industry partners. The company also received $1.9m from the NSW Physical Sciences Fund and a $5.3m Defence Innovation Hub contract to develop its Generation 2 systems. Built by world class astronomers and engineers, the company was born out of CSIRO, original inventors of fast Wi-Fi, and combines material science, radio frequency (RF) physics, cryogenics, and digital platform development. It is this foundation that makes Quasar’s novel approach successful, and enabled the organisation to re-envision problems in SDA and satellite communications in order to deliver its world first solution.
In addition to its SDA technology, Quasar continues testing of its world first satellite communications capabilities, which are scheduled for launch in 2024. This technology is geared to support earth observation, communications missions, weather analysis, remote sensing, and Internet of Things (IoT) deployments, among other objectives, and will be customised and scaled to customers’ required data capacities.