The Australian Space Research Program (ASRP) was an Australian Government research initiative. It provided $40 million over four years, through a competitive merit-based grants program, to support space-related research, education and innovation activities. Antarctic Broadband, a collaboration between seven organisations led by Shoal, was selected as one of the first-round winners of the ASRP, with funding of $2.1 million in early 2010.
The Antarctic Broadband team included Shoal Group (formerly Aerospace Concepts), Australian National University (ANU) Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics, University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies Space, Flight Laboratory (UTIASSFL), EM Solutions, Environmental Systems & Services, The Tauri Group and Josephmark. They recognised that as the research community and broader political interest in Antarctica had grown, so had the demand for data; a demand that traditional space and terrestrial communications services are unable to reliably meet.
The first-round funding supported Antarctic Broadband to undertake the detailed design of the nanosatellite demonstrator system (refer Stage 1) . This included engineering drawings and production plan. A fully commissioned Telemetry, Tracking, and Command (TT&C) ground station test facility was established at Australian National University’s (ANU) Mt Stromlo, including S-band and UHF transceivers, radio and tracking equipment and trained personnel, along with a Ka-Band payload prototype and first generation ground station terminal.
The Antarctic Broadband program designed a high-quality communications service for the international research community in Antarctica. Using small-satellite technology, customised to the needs of Antarctic users, would enable the hardest-to-reach continent to have dedicated links with the rest of the world.
The successful execution of the Antarctic Broadband program will provide Australia with a vastly superior communications capability in the Antarctic region, supported by spaceflight-driven partnerships with other countries and high technology companies. It will directly support research in the Antarctic across areas including climate change, astronomy, ecosystems and meteorology, to create new paths of research and data sharing in real time.