Near-Earth satellites undergo complex and poorly understood interactions with their environment, leading to large uncertainties in predicting orbits and an associated risk of collision with other satellites and with space debris. The nature, evolution and behaviour of the growing cloud of space debris in that environment is even less well understood.
Significant effort and expenditure is currently being made by governments in Australia, UK, USA, Europe and elsewhere in space surveillance and tracking, in order to mitigate the risk. In particular, major gaps exist with respect to the science of in-orbit behaviour – including knowledge of and predictive capability for the interaction between space objects and the rarefied neutral and plasma environment in Low Earth Orbit (LEO).
UNSW Canberra is building capability to help plug that gap by coupling together the necessary parts of the puzzle - the physics of rarefied space object “aerodynamics” and the space physics and space weather that affects it - and employing our capabilities in ground-based and in-orbit experiments, ground-based observations and high performance computing to do so.
The research is a core theme in the broader space research flagship known as UNSW Canberra Space, in which some 50+ faculty staff, space engineers, scientists and PhD students are engaged in developing space science and technology capability and space missions.
The centre is well-resourced, and accesses the high performance computing capabilities of the National Computational Infrastructure and the space test facilities of ANU.
UNSW Canberra Space is the leading space capability in Australia, and our Space Situational Awareness research is among the best in the world in our niche area.
Prospective students will find exciting opportunities to perform world-class research in a world-class team.