[IPSEC] The City of Optical Communications! Perth, Western Australia is a Window to Deep Space
The Indo-Pacific Space and Earth Conference 2023 (IPSEC 2023) was held in the western Australian city of Perth on October 23–24, 2023. IPSEC is the first conference event of its kind this year and aims to explore and discuss the full range of technologies that can be applied both on Earth and in space, from AI and robotics to teleoperation.
Perth is one of the cities in Australia with the highest concentration of rocket launch sites and observatories due to its abundance of sunny days. On the other hand, it is also a hub for terrestrial optical communication networks, making it a city with great potential as a hub for optical communication ground stations. Australia is also a very important land for WarpSpace’s future business development, as WarpSpace’s partner company, LatConnect 60, an Australian earth observation satellite operator, is also based in Australia.
Warpspace’s CSO, Mr. Mori, participated in the conference and gave a presentation on issues related to the Earth observation satellite market and trends in the optical communications satellite industry, which attracted a great deal of attention. This article introduces some of the most noteworthy topics Mori saw and heard about on-site at the IPSEC.
Crossover between Terrestrial Technology and Space Exploration
Mori cited the self-driving space exploration rover as a topic that particularly impressed him at this year’s IPSEC. Australia, with its active mining of iron ore, bauxite, and other mineral resources, has some of the most advanced technology in the world in the development of autonomous trucks, unmanned trains, and autonomous drilling rigs.
An Australian company that possesses the seeds of such technology is involved in the Artemis Project promoted by NASA in recent years, and is engaged in research on automated operation of spacecraft. In addition to such automatic operation technology, he also talked about an attempt to utilize the ingenuity used in excavation sites on Earth for space exploration. Specifically,
In the case of material transportation in hilly areas, a system that generates electricity while loading heavy materials on top of a hill and moving down the hill, and then moves back up the hill by using the electricity generated by the electricity, is semi-automated for excavation on the ground. This kind of technology is very interesting and useful for exploration and drilling on the Moon, where human resources are limited.
As the name of the Indo-Pacific “Space and Earth” Conference suggests, there were many examples of crossover between space development and technologies developed in industry on the ground. The idea of installing optical communication terminals in such automated vehicles was also raised, and the potential demand for optical communication in space, not limited to satellite-to-satellite communication, was also discussed.
All About Optical Communication Networks from Western Australia
In addition to an automated space exploration rover, another topic that Mori found particularly important was the topic of building an optical communications network from Australia. Researchers in Western Australia have received generous grants from the Australian Space Agency, the State Government of Western Australia, and the University of Western Australia to conduct research related to the construction of “TeraNet,” an optical communications network using lasers that includes space and ground (*2). This network will consist of two fixed ground stations to be installed at the University of Western Australia and Mingenew, a city 383 km north of Perth, and a vehicle equipped with an optical communication terminal to be deployed in New Norcia, a city 132 km north of Perth.
It was announced that TeraNet will not only transfer data between satellites orbiting the earth and the ground, but also plans to explore high-speed communications in deep space, including the moon, and is a large-scale project with plans to work with NASA’s Artemis program, to be completed in 2026.
Mori is particularly interested in the quality of the partners on this project team. Goonhilly Australia, famous for its deep-space ground stations, and Thales Australia, which has expertise in developing ground station systems, are also involved in the project, making it a solid team. These connections to the ground station network are also likely to be very important as WarpSpace expands its operations in the future.