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University partners with Thales, HEO Robotics on space research

25 March 2021
New autonomous space object detection partnership
The University of Sydney has signed a research agreement in collaboration with Thales Australia and HEO Robotics to investigate technologies for autonomous vision-based space object detection and tracking.

The work under this research agreement will focus on the identification of sensor technologies that have the potential to perform well on in-orbit platforms in support of space domain awareness – which is the study and monitoring of satellites orbiting earth – as well as satellite docking and maintenance.

The new research project involves an initial scoping study phase, which, if successful, may lead to further developments. 

The research project was funded by the SmartSat Cooperative Research Centre (CRC). It presents opportunities for new space projects that will flow from the SmartSat CRC initiative, contributing to the growth of a sovereign Australian space industry.

University of Sydney Dean of the Faculty of Engineering, Professor Willy Zwaenepoel said: “This project represents an outstanding opportunity to engage with a global industry leader in the area of satellite systems, while also nurturing our domestic capability in Australia.”

"It will engage our staff and students in the development of state-of-the-art satellite capabilities. Having recently been designated as the Academic Institution of the Year at the Australian Space Awards, the University of Sydney is in a unique position to deliver on the proposed project outcomes.”

Thales Australia Director of Technical Strategy, Michael Clarke said the company has a long and proud history of partnering with academic and SMEs to develop next generation sovereign technologies.

“This research project is no exception, and is another great example of demonstrating how collaboration will help grow sovereign space capability, while providing additional opportunities for SMEs to feed into our global projects,” said Mr Clark.

HEO Robotics CEO, William Crowe said: “HEO Robotics is an ambitious Australian space startup that is already supplying customers with insights using our HEO Inspect product. We’re pleased to work with the likes of Thales Australia and the University of Sydney to supercharge our development and feed into the global supply chain of leading space companies.”

The University of Sydney research team includes Dr Xiaofeng Wu, Dr Youngho Eun from the School of Aerospace, Mechanical and Mechatronic Engineering , Associate Professor Zhiyong Wang and Dr Zhe Chen from the School of Computer Science, Professor Iver Cairns and Dr Xueliang Bai from The School of Physics.


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