Sydney space company Quasar to unveil satellite tech that can ‘hear the whole sky’

Sydney space company Quasar to unveil satellite tech that can ‘hear the whole sky’

Quasar CEO Phil Ridley (Provided)

A Sydney-based space company building ground station satellites that will allow agencies and organisations to ‘hear the whole sky’ and access a real-time map of every object in orbit has revealed its plans to showcase the innovative tech in the US next week.

Founded in 2021 and spun out from the CSIRO, Quasar is developing technology that can support up to a hundred satellite communications simultaneously with a single compact antenna. 

The company’s Space Domain Awareness (SDA) technology provides ground stations with many steerable electronic beams to access data from satellites in low, medium and geostationary orbit – all of which are crucial for government space programs, geopolitical risk assessment, national security, and more.

Quasar plans to unveil its technology at the SFA Spacepower Conference in Orlando, Florida – a two-day event that brings together the space community, as well as industry and military leaders.

The company has plans to open an office in the US in 2024, and more than 20 staff to its team across Australia and the States.

“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,” Quasar CEO Phil Ridley said.

“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.”

When the company launched, it secured $8.7 million in seed funding from Main Sequence, CSIRO and four industry partners. Quasar has also received $1.9 million from the NSW Physical Sciences Fund and a $5.3 million Defence Innovation Hub contract to develop its Generation 2 systems. 

The company is also aiming to complete a Series A raise in 2024, but has not disclosed the target for the funding round.

Quasar’s technology will be available to Five Eyes, an intelligence alliance comprising Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK and the US, as well as Quad nations such as India and Japan. 

“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,” Ridley said.

“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.

“This represents a remarkable opportunity for Australia – one that stands to not only benefit government agencies and businesses, but also every citizen.”

In addition to its SDA technology, Quasar continues testing its 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, and more.

“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,” Ridley said.

“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.”

The news comes only days after Sydney-based Space Machines Company (SMC) announced it would be partnering with US-based Orbit Fab to optimise its space servicing vehicle, Optimus, which provides ‘roadside assistance’ in orbit.

The installation of Orbit Fab’s space fiducial alignment markers on SMC’s orbital servicing vehicle (OSV) will act as a QR Code, identifying and verifying data in real-time, allowing the vehicle to approach spacecraft safely and securely to complete missions like repairs and refuelling.

Another entity that is taking part in the global space race is developer ELO2, a consortium which recently unveiled a lunar rover prototype that may take part in the Australian Space Agency’s (ASA) $50 million Moon to Mars Trailblazer program.

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