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Australian satellites could change the future of weather forecasting

A study conducted by UNSW Canberra shows promising results for the use of Australian built satellites. Picture: UNSW Canberra.

AUSTRALIAN designed and built satellites could play a key part in the future of weather forecasting both across the nation and the globe, a study from UNSW Canberra has found.

Satellites are used to acquire observations of Earth that help predict the weather, but as Australia currently does not have any of their own, the Bureau of Meteorology relies heavily on foreign-owned systems to generate forecasts.

However, a study conducted in UNSW Canberra’s Australian National Concurrent Design Facility (ANCDF) has shown promising results for the use of Australian built satellites.

It’s believed the satellites could help predict weather across the country and address data gaps in the global meteorological observing system.

ANCDF Manager and Space Systems Engineer Denis Naughton said the study explored three key meteorological missions provided by the Bureau of Meteorology.

These included a lightning sensor used to support severe storm forecasting and climate studies, a synthetic aperture radar (SAR) instrument for sea ice monitoring and a hyperspectral microwave sounder for atmospheric temperature and humidity profiling.

“The objectives of this study were to identify those meteorological instruments having the greatest potential to meet not only the Bureau’s mandates and future needs for satellite data, but to provide a data generation capability that would contribute to the global meteorological community,” said Mr Naughton.

“Each instrument was evaluated from performance and feasibility perspectives and were deemed to be practically achievable, and a recommendation was made to advance each project for further evaluation.”

Mr Naughton said the study also identified opportunities to strengthen international partnerships to ensure ongoing access to critical weather satellite data streams.

“The pathway to operational, reliable and trusted missions would most likely be through the development of pathfinder missions,” he said.

“Australian industry-developed pathfinder missions could include sovereign instrument designs, spacecraft subsystems and data processing capabilities, which could serve as a pathway to longer-term operational systems as the industry matures, while simultaneously providing improved data products to the Bureau and its partner meteorological agencies in the short-term.

“The result would also lead to an increase of skills in Australia across the satellite supply chain and within all related sectors.”

Read the report here.

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