South Australia will become the first state to send its own satellite into low-Earth orbit, with a “cereal box-sized” object set to launch early next year.

Key points:

  • Data from the satellite could inform climate policy and bushfire management, authorities say
  • The $6.5 million project is being led by an industry consortium at Adelaide’s Lot Fourteen
  • A launch date is expected within the next 15 months

Premier Steven Marshall said the SA Government would be “one of the first sub-national governments in the world” to launch its own satellite, and would use the data collected to inform decisions around water use, climate policy, mining and emergency management.

“South Australia is embarking on a bold mission with industry to design and build a satellite to deliver space-derived services,” Mr Marshall said.

“We’re going to cement our place as the natural home for the space sector in Australia.

“We’ve got 15 months approximately until the launch of this satellite and we’ll look for every opportunity for being able to share that data … but also looking at some commercial opportunities.”

The $6.5 million project is being led by industry consortium SmartSat CRC, which is based at Adelaide’s CBD tech hub Lot Fourteen, where the Australian Space Agency is headquartered.

The satellite will be constructed and launched over the next 15 months by satellite and data technology developers Inovor and Myriota.

SA Premier Steven Marshall was at Lot Fourteen to announce the launch.(ABC News: Michael Clements)

SmartSat CRC’s chief executive, Professor Andy Koronios, said the technology had the potential to be “game-changing”.

“SmartSat is delighted to be a part of this groundbreaking initiative,” he said.

“You may say, ‘Well that doesn’t seem very impactful’, but actually, it has the potential to be highly impactful.

“Not only in providing growth for the business … but to supercharge local businesses so that they can actually become global players and sell [their technology] to the world instead of vice versa.”

Bushfire management to benefit

Co-founder and chief executive of Myriota, Dr Alex Grant, said data gathered from the mission could have implications for a range of fields.

“This satellite will be an Australian innovation addressing specific Australian challenges around water quality and water security, climate, weather, energy infrastructure, resources, mining and our vast maritime areas,” he said.

“For example, getting data on levels of water in fire-water tanks which can be distributed right across the country [and] looking at the condition of remote assets for fighting fires.

Myriota said the satellite would help advance SA’s role in space.(Supplied: Myriota)

South Australia’s role in space has accelerated in recent months, with the state recently hosting the return of a capsule containing the first sub-surface samples from an asteroid.

Dr Grant said developing new satellite technologies locally would also provide the nation with greater autonomy around sensitive communication technology.

“In terms of space infrastructure, which we all rely on every day, we are reliant on overseas-built infrastructure to deliver those services, and the current pandemic has really highlighted the fragility of those global supply chains,” he said.

“[This satellite will be] built from the ground up to be highly secure and highly private.

Inovor Technologies founder and chief executive Dr Matthew Tetlow said the satellite mission would also create jobs and “boost supply chain investment”.

Inovor has grown from 15 employees to 45 over the past two years, and plans to employ another five people to work on the satellite project.

An exact launch date and location are yet to be finalised.