Australia wants to muscle in on the space race to keep a closer watch on farmers.
Plans have been developed to build our own satellites over the next few years which would fine tune the vague pictures of land use relied on today.
Australia is one of the largest global users of satellite earth observation data but that information comes from foreign governments and the private sector.
Scientists say a new series of satellites are needed to give the familiar Landsat images of the past few decades better focus.
Australia wants to launch several of its own satellites to move from identifying a generic agricultural activity to pinpointing a specific crop.
Those satellites would be fitted with "hyperspectral sensors" to provide data on climate science, disaster management, water resource monitoring, agriculture and land use.
Twenty-one organisations from across Australia and the United States have found that a series of satellites fitted with these sensors could become a key component in Australia's space capabilities.
Conducted in UNSW Canberra's Australian National Concurrent Design Facility, a study has examined the feasibility of a Satellite Cross-Calibration Radiometer mission.
It brought together central organisations in the Australian space sector, including Geoscience Australia, the Australian Space Agency and the CSIRO and incorporated key inputs from a range of companies within the Australian space industry.
It also welcomed the US Geological Survey as an international partner.
The Australian SCR series of hyperspectral sensors aims to improve the data quality provided by optical Earth observation satellites through cross-calibration.
"In effect, this means that SCR data will improve the calibration of other sensors such as Landsat and allow for that calibration to be transferred to a variety of civil and commercial satellites to increase their overall utility," ANCDF manager and space systems engineer Denis Naughton said.
"These datasets could improve the quality of Earth observation image products," he said.
The new science would mean data from one satellite can be combined with data from other satellites to increase their overall utility.
The Australian study identified four specific satellite systems required which are not available today.
"Development of these systems represent an opportunity for Australia to develop the capabilities to support a (satellite) mission and hold export potential," the UNSW study found.
The study, funded by Geoscience Australia, recommended two stages of development:
- The space elements to design, build, launch and operate a single satellite would cost about $36 million, weighing 25-100kg and take several years to develop.
- The second stage would be a multi-mission hyperspectral smallsat series which could cost $75-$100 million and weigh 75-250kg and take about 2-3 years to develop.
"Both phases would include launch of two satellites every two years, subject to ongoing funding," the study found.
The study concluded the satellite mission was both technically and programmatically feasible.
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The story Australian scientists want to help farmers from space first appeared on Farm Online.