Playing an integral role in international space efforts
A collaborative project leveraging the University's multi-disciplinary capabilities into a premier Australian university space research program on the world stage.

The science of space relates to the properties, dynamics, and evolution of the solar system and humanity’s place therein, from the Sun to Earth’s ozone layer and then to the local interstellar medium. 

In contrast, Australian astronomy currently focuses on ground-based studies of objects outside our solar system, while agriculture and the geosciences address the uses, characteristics, and environments of the solid Earth, oceans, hydrological systems, and atmosphere. 

SpaceNet is a network that:

  • directly addresses vital national issues involving Earth observations from space (EOS)
  • enables the University to take a prominent and sustainable national position in space research
  • provides a strong foundation to develop into a future Australia Space Research Network, multiple ARC and University centres that engage strongly with government, industry and other universities worldwide on research and commercial services related to space

DIISR’s 2011 Strategic Roadmap proposes development of a broad enabling capability (like eResearch, Biological Collections, Fabrication etc.) in Space Science. This will fill a strategic gap in Australia’s national research infrastructure between targeted capability areas like Terrestrial Systems, Solid Earth, Astronomy etc. 

Space involves multiple independent dynamical systems and so has strong links to areas like atmospheric, complex system, Earth system, and environmental science.

Australia’s 2013 space policy focuses on Earth observations from space (EOS), positioning, timing, navigation (PNT; e.g., GPS), communication services provided by satellites. These plus (geo)spatial information systems provide many of the basic tools that underlie modern agriculture, climate and environmental stewardship, financial systems, mineral and other natural resource management and extraction, and natural hazard detection and mitigation .

Such space-sourced data and services are increasingly important to Australia’s defence, economy, environmental stewardship, governance, security, and society. Imagine, for instance, modern Australia without EOS and GPS for global weather prediction, disaster / environmental /harvest / security monitoring, precision agriculture, and mineral exploration.

Australia’s first satellite utilisation policy was released in April 2013 and focuses strongly on EOS, PNT, and related space systems & services. A time window exists to establish national leadership in the space science and EOS applications domain and set a path towards a national space research & applications network, COEs, and CRCs. 

We desire an EOS focus and to develop the breadth of SpaceNet across science, engineering, geosciences, sustainability, and agriculture. Measuring Amazon (and global) greenhouse emissions is increasingly important geopolitically and is only done reliably via EOS. Similarly for triple-bottom-line (economic, environmental, societal) analyses of space weather and climate change. SpaceNet will do such analyses with Brazilian & other international partners. 

EOS services are absolutely crucial to modern Australia but over 40% of the free EOS data Australia currently relies on will likely be unavailable or costly by 2018.

SpaceNet involves novel EOS-focused instruments, satellites, and UAVs and analyses of EOS data on fundamental and applied research of national significance.

Our research

We develop the national, international, and cross-University impacts required to develop a leadership role in space research.

Research goals

This goal delivers the space capabilities, assets, and tools that underpin SpaceNet and directly address the Decadal Plan, the 2011 Roadmap, and parts of the new Satellite Utilisation Policy.

  1. Spacecraft
    Build, launch, and operate the i-INSPIRE and INSPIRE-2 spacecraft (already funded separately) and extend them into a sustainable, multi-generational, innovative program of balloon flights and spacecraft projects that stimulates and leads Australia’s national efforts and contributes strongly to international space, astronomy, & EOS research.
  2. Instruments & spacecraft systems
    Develop new instruments (e.g., advanced photonics-based spectrographs and imagers for EOS) and spacecraft systems (e.g., plasma-based thrusters, integrated and miniaturized control systems) for RG1a that also address national needs for operational EOS imaging and spectroscopy.
  3. Numerical & computational tools
    Develop and use novel numerical and computational tools that enable linked research between the CIs and colleagues across the University and beyond.
  4. Rovers and UAVs
    Use ACFR’s expertise in planetary rovers, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) , and related robots to design and test the sensors and satellite systems developed in RG1b (including UAV rather than balloon flights) and then use them to provide EOS data for RG3a-b to test Mars rover designs and planetary / soil analogue research for RG3c.

This develops Geoscience Node Leader Mueller’s Laureate-funded research on the Virtual Geological Observatory (VIRGO) into a four-dimensional (time and 3D space) view of the global Earth via deep-time data-mining of geological and EOS data (Aus4D). Attracting major interest from Geoscience Australia, this will enable studies of mineral, agricultural, water, and energy resources, address the evolution of the Earth and solar system, and searches for Martian and lunar analogue sites etc.

  1. Generalise VIRGO
    Generalise VIRGO to include EOS, gravimetric, and magnetic field data using the mathematical and computational tools developed under RG1c above.
  2. Aus4D
    Develop VIRGO into a compelling proposal for an ARC / Geoscience Australia (GA) co-funded Centre of Excellence for the geodynamic evolution of the Australian continent (Aus4D).

This research focuses on the application of EOS and space weather data to land-sea-air evolution, resources, food security, & triple-bottom-line analyses.

EOS data are vital for the monitoring, detection, and classification of features and phenomena in coasts and oceans, the atmosphere, agriculture, vegetation, and ecosystems. The subgoals include the following.

  1. EOS instrument design and data calibration
    Connect the users of EOS data in Agriculture & Environment, CPC, Geosciences and SIMS with Physics photonic instrument designers and ACFR/AMMEengineers. This is intended to develop instruments and data products specifically needed by EOS data users.
  2. EOS applications
    Apply EOS data, field observations, and existing analysis techniques and models to specific topics of strong current interest. These topics include:
    • costal land-sea-air interactions, focusing on sea level rise, costal erosion, and the very topical idea that blue carbon may be vital in climatic change.
    • the spatial dynamics of nutrition on a landscape scale and the impact of land management, especially food production.
    • agriculture, water soils, and planetary analogues associated with Australia's Great Artesian Basin and Mars.
    • greenhouse gas emissions from the Amazon and Australia, in collaboration with Brazillian and European colleagues.
  3. Triple-bottom-line accounting for space weather and other events
    Expand the pilot CISA-Physics analysis of the economic, environmental, and societal effects on both individual nations and the world as a whole of space weather effects on electrical power systems to other space weather effects (e.g., corrosion of long pipelines, satellite damage).

Our people

Node Leaders:

Opportunities and programs

Visit our website for more information on these opportunities.

Our program connects our researchers and students with industry organisations, with the intention of adding to and strengthen research and services for both groups.

  • Does your organisation involve Space or depend on GIS, GPS, or other data from satellites?
  • Are you seeking excellent university students or researchers for internships, vacation positions, or careers?
  • Are you a student or researcher seeking out an industry partner to help develop your project?
  • Do you want to collaborate on space-related research?

If so, then the University of Sydney’s new Space Research Network, Sydney SpaceNet, and in particular its Space Internships and Projects program, is relevant to your organisation.

Goals of the program

The program is intended to:

  • develop novel space-related employment opportunities in industry and government for University of Sydney undergraduate and postgraduate research students and staff
  • provide skilled students to industry and government employers
  • elicit employer feedback to the University and students on desirable skills and knowledge
  • build new research links and collaborations with industry and government partners, including grants and centres funded by the Australian Research Council.
What we do

We are focused on space and related scientific, engineering, agriculture, environmental, food security and economic issues. 

Our work addresses vital national issues involving Earth observations from space (EOS) and the National Research Priorities of:

  • Environmentally Sustainable Australia
  • Frontier Technologies
  • Safeguarding Australia.

Our research goals include instrument and spacecraft technology, advanced geophysical and environmental modelling, and the use of space-derived data, for example: EOS, GIS, GNSS, and triple bottom-line accounting.

Who we are

Our staff and students come from:

  • Three Faculties: Agriculture and Environment, Engineering and Information Technologies, and Science
  • Five departments: Aerospace, Mechanical, and Mechatronic Engineering (AMME), Environmental Sciences, Geosciences, Mathematics and Statistics, Plant and Food Sciences, and Physics
  • The Australian Centre for Field Robotics [AFCR]
  • The Centre for Integrated Sustainability Analysis [CISA]
  • The Charles Perkins Centre [CPC], especially its Complex Systems theme
  • The Sydney Institute for Marine Science [SIMS]
Developing an internship

When you are developing an internship (> 3 months) or project (1 - 3 months), you may find it helpful to answer the following questions:

  • What should this employment and/or research opportunity lead to and why? You may identify the goals, motivations, and techniques needed.
  • What are the required skills and background for a successful intern?
  • How much time is needed for the project?
  • Where is the work location and what is the level and type of position in your organisation?
  • Is the position paid? If so, consider what will be attractive to the student or researcher.
  • Will a link to a SpaceNet staff member benefit your organisation?
  • Our intention is that from now until late November, partners and stuff/students agree on projects with the intention of commencing in December.
Contact us

For more details and to ask any questions, please contact:

Our quarterly SpaceNet workshops bring together interested people across the university, refine and extend the research program and cross-Faculty and inter-School collaborations, and pursue research goals RG1 - RG3. 

The themes are expected to be:

  • (i) How to preprocess specific EOS data into useful form and improve analysis of satellite imagery
  • (ii) Designing novel photonic and other instruments that provide EOS data tuned to Australian conditions and address national needs and specific problems in RG1 – RG3
  • (iii) Future U. Sydney and Australian space projects, building upon i-INSPIRE, QB50, the Decadal Plan, and the new space policy and the 2011 Roadmap
  • (iv) “SpaceNet Open Day”, aiming to advertise the progress made to the University and media and to attract new members and ideas.

ECRs and students will play major roles in the workshops, developing their experience and cross-University links.

Our program is focused on developing Linkage grants, the Aus4D ARC / Geoscience Australia CoE, at least 1 CoE or CRC on space research, and linkages with existing international collaborators (e.g., Brazil, Europe, and the USA). 

It will also address the future of SpaceNet, developing a strategic plan and positioning us to evolve into a national space research network and a major player in Australian space research and services.


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