Defence picks Airbus for space STaR Shot research program

Joseph Brookes
Senior Reporter

Aerospace giant Airbus will be the lead partner for Defence’s space research program, aimed at ensuring Australian forces have assured access to satellite services. Adelaide space companies Inovor Technologies and Shoal Group will support the new program alongside consulting multi-national Deloitte.

The Airbus arrangement was announced in an update to Defence’s Resilient Multi-mission Space STaR Shot research program on Wednesday.

Defence has already purchased two Airbus Arrow 150 satellite buses valued at more than $20 million under the program, with Australian developed technologies and payloads to be outfitted for a launch into a more contested and congested orbit.

Airbus is the strategic partner for Defence’ STaR Shot research and development program

Launched in 2020 the STaR Shot, or Science Technology and Research Shots, are long term Defence missions to align strategic research to force structure priorities.

Currently there are eight STaR Shots, managed by the Defence Science and Technology Group and covering areas like information warfare, remote undersea surveillance and quantum assured position navigation and timing.

The objective of the Resilient Multi-mission Space STaR Shot is to design, manufacture, launch and operate at least four exemplar small satellite (up to 200 kg) missions over a decade long program. Each satellite will contain a number of payloads related to one or more of the identified S&T themes:

    • Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR),
    • Non-geostationary satellite communications,
    • Space Domain Awareness (SDA),
    • Space autonomy, and
    • Resilient space systems and concepts

A strategic partner had been sought to o fulfil the satellite integration requirements, including design, manufacture, integration and support to operations, in collaboration with other program partners from Defence, the SmartSat CRC, industry, universities and international networks.

Defence chief scientist Professor Tanya Monro announced Airbus partnership had been selected on Wednesday.

She said along with industry partners Inovor Technologies, Shoal Group and Deloitte, the program will be supported by academic partners and a range of Australian small-to-medium enterprises.

“This is a true collaboration between government, industry and academia that will help position our growing Australian space sector to deliver future sovereign space technologies and operational capabilities,” she said in a statement.

While Australia’s domestic space sector is growing quickly, Defence has opted for the European giant’s smaller 150 kilogram Arrow satellites.

“The Arrow satellites provide some of the earliest possible opportunities to take Australian-developed Defence payloads into space,” Professor Monro said.

“As our domestic space sector matures, we will use locally designed and built satellites that are expected to be the most ambitious satellites ever designed and built in Australia.”

The US Space Development Agency is also using Airbus to supply its low earth orbit constellation to be used by American defence forces, but has opted for much larger Arrow 450 bus — designed to be scaled from 300 kilograms to 500 kilograms.

Australia’s Airbus Defence partnership represents an investment of more than $40 million in satellite technologies.

“Self-reliance in space technologies is critical if we are to ensure the defence and security of the country,” Professor Monro said.

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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