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SA observatory to monitor space debris

A space observatory, to better monitor satellites and space debris, has opened in South Australia.

The Oculus Observatory, built by Silentium Defence in SA’s Murray region, delivers a wider field of view than traditional facilities providing high-quality data for more informed decision making, traffic management and collision avoidance in space.

“Unlike traditional space surveillance technologies that provide a narrow view of debris and objects in orbit, the sensors at our observatory provide coverage of an area the size of South Australia,” Silentium Defence Chief Executive James Palmer said.

“For customers, this means we will detect and track objects they expect to see, like satellites and catalogued debris, as well as new and unknown objects that may pose a threat to critical services or assets in space.

“Not only do our sensors detect those objects, but because of our coverage, they maintain visibility and tracking for significantly longer.”

Dr Palmer said Oculus was set to be the workhorse of space surveillance, supporting both commercial and government applications.

“To manoeuvre a satellite safely in space takes time. It is a costly exercise that can limit a satellite’s life,” he said.

“Any decision to manoeuvre must be based on the most accurate, up-to-date and informed data, and that’s what our new observatory provides.”

The observatory is the first of a planned network of similar facilities to be deployed across the globe.

Initial design and capability testing for integration of various sensor types and data sources is being conducted in partnership with Silentium’s grant partner, Western Sydney University and with support from the Swedish Space Corporation.

Australian Space Agency chief Enrico Palermo said the observatory was a great example of the world-leading technology Australia’s space industry could deliver.

“This new observatory shows the world that not only does Australia offer a unique geographic advantage for space observation and tracking, but we have the skills, vision and leadership to design the systems that will keep people, assets and critical services safe,” he said.

“The safe, stable and sustainable use of outer space is central to the continued growth of the space sector, both globally and here in Australia.”

South Australian Premier Steven Marshall said the project added critical capability to the space ecosystem and delivered positive economic impacts for the state.

“South Australia is now firmly established as the centre-of-gravity for the nation’s space endeavours and Silentium’s Oculus Observatory is a great example of the innovation being fostered here to tackle complex space problems,” he said.

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