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Deakin's IISRI to play important role in $7 million autonomous spacecraft project



  • SmartSat Cooperative Research Centre (SmartSat) recently launched its three-year project, Spacecraft Autonomy and Onboard AI for Next Generation Space Systems (SCARLET-α) project.
  • Deakin's Institute for Intelligent Systems Research and Innovation is one of eight partners involved.
  • The project has just received a $7 million grant as part of the Federal Government's CRC Program.
  • SCARLET-α aims to create algorithms that will enable small spacecraft to make decisions independently without intervention from Earth.

The Institute for Intelligent Systems Research and Innovation (IISRI) will be part of a new $7 million project that will develop new autonomous spacecraft utilising artificial intelligence (AI).

SmartSat Cooperative Research Centre (SmartSat), Australia's leading space research centre, recently launched its three-year project, Spacecraft Autonomy and Onboard AI for Next Generation Space Systems (SCARLET-α). SCARLET-α aims to create a set of autonomous algorithms that will enable small and distributed spacecraft to make decisions independently, optimise the use of available resources and capabilities, adapt to changing conditions, and handle critical situations, without intervention from Earth.

The project brings together eight partners: Airbus, Asension, Defence Science and Technology Group, Leonardo Australia, Saab Australia, Swinburne University of Technology, University of South Australia (UniSA) and Deakin University's IISRI.

IISRI's important role

IISRI will lead the research work dedicated to 'Onboard Processing and Actionable Intelligence'.

"We are delighted to contribute significantly to this pivotal project within the space industry," says Professor Douglas Creighton, Director of IISRI.

"The IISRI team will diligently engage in comprehensive research, development, and implementation of cutting-edge technologies, specifically tailored to onboard processing requirements.

"Our focus will revolve around tasks pertaining to edge processing and autonomy, ensuring that we remain at the forefront of technological advancements in this field."

Transforming satellite technology

SmartSat CEO Professor Andy Koronios, says that, to date, onboard processing has been limited to data collection, but researchers hope the algorithms they develop will allow spacecraft to perform many tasks with less intervention from human operators.

"As autonomous technologies advance and are embraced, their place in space will expand and present new opportunities for applications here on Earth," Prof. Koronios says.

"The next generation of satellite communications and earth observation will be achieved using integrated systems of satellite constellations operating autonomously and performing multiple tasks in real time.

"Such AI-enabled technologies promise to transform the major sectors of our economy, such as agriculture, farming, and mining, and better serve our defence and national security objectives."

Professor Koronois said the support of the Federal Government CRC Program Australia positions Australian scientists to develop cutting-edge technologies in space autonomy.

"With next-generation space systems on the horizon, the possibilities for science, discovery and innovation are endless. SmartSat is well placed to progress Australia's spacecraft autonomy capabilities to help our nation remain innovative and at the forefront of technology," he said.

In addition to onboard processing and actionable intelligence, the SCARLET-α project will also focus on other high impact areas of spacecraft autonomy and onboard AI as identified and prioritised with the industry and defence partners, including:

  • Small spacecraft and constellation resilience
  • Dynamic optimisation of constellation resources
  • Real-time tasking and resource allocation

World-class research and development in space systems

SCARLET-α is the flagship of a suite of projects SmartSat will deliver under its SCARLET lab (laboratory), a SmartSat initiative to develop innovative technologies across spacecraft autonomy, on-board Artificial Intelligence (AI) and data analytics.

Deakin's IISRI is a Core Partner in the SmartSat Cooperative Research Centre, which brings together over 100 national and international partners who have invested over $190 million, along with $55 million in Federal Government funding under its Cooperative Research Centres Program, in a $245 million research effort over seven years.

Working closely with the Australian Space Agency & Defence, SmartSat is making a strong contribution to the Australian Government's goal of tripling the size of the space sector to $12 billion and creating up to 20,000 jobs by 2030. Priority industry sectors for SmartSat include telecommunications, agriculture and natural resources, and defence and national security.$7-million-autonomous-spacecraft-project

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