West Australian researchers are preparing to build a data communications network that works 1,000 times faster than radio communications.
The new high-speed laser technology, called ‘free-space optical communications’, could pave the way for high-speed data transfer in space.
Project leader Associate Professor Sascha Schediwy, from The University of Western Australia (UWA) node of the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR), is a world expert in optical communications.
He said the project—called TeraNet—will be among Australia’s first commercial optical communications networks.
The network will have two fixed ground stations located at UWA’s Crawley campus and Mingenew, and a third mobile station, initially deployed at the European Space Agency’s New Norcia Deep Space Ground Station.
The global satellite communications market is expected to grow to US$159.6B by 2030.
Mr Schediwy said the new WA-based network’s primary commercial application will be transferring data between Earth and satellites orbiting the planet.
“It’s about supporting all these different customers and space missions in low Earth orbit,” Mr Schediwy said.
“And then also being capable of advanced communications for things like NASA’s Artemis missions to the Moon.”
The $6.5 million TeraNet project has received a $4.4 million grant from the Australian Space Agency as part of the agency’s Moon to Mars Demonstrator Mission program.
UWA and the WA Government also contributed $500,000 each.
The WA Minister for Innovation, Stephen Dawson, said the TeraNet project “will help to diversify the WA economy and lead to the creation of more highly skilled jobs.”
“I am thrilled the State Government’s co-investment has led to this exciting project being delivered by WA.
“WA’s geography and climate make it a prime location to host ground stations and initiatives like these will see the State become a world-leader in commercial laser satellite communications and supporting space missions.
The network is due to be completed in 2026.