Shoal has been growing engineering and business capabilities for some time. We achieved major recognition in 2009 when an Australian, Canadian and US consortium of companies and research institutions, led by Shoal (then known as Aerospace Concepts), was awarded a $2.1M grant under the Australian Space Research Program. This grant part-funded the Antarctic Broadband program, which aimed to establish a high-quality communications service for the international research community in Antarctica. Using small-satellite technology customised for the needs of users in the Antarctic region, the program aimed to provide the hardest-to-reach continent with dedicated links to the rest of the world. This work resulted in:
- A 10kg Antarctic Broadband demonstrator nanosatellite, intended to characterise Ka-band communications over Antarctica
- A nanosatellite payload integration and test facility and ground station at the Mt Stromlo Observatory in Canberra; and
- The only nanosatellite-class Ka-band communications payload in the World, exhibited as such at the international small satellite conference (‘SmallSat’ in the Logan, Utah) in August 2011.
Antarctic Broadband was the subject of considerable media coverage, including a feature on ABC TV’s Catalyst science program in early 2012. It was awarded an ‘Engineering Excellence Award’ by Engineers Australia in late 2011. Aligned with continued research and development in the field at the time, Shoal continued to support research, in the satellite space, to the SUSat – a QB50 nanosat project led by Dr Matthew Tetlow.