Shoal’s growing engineering and business capabilities 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 has part-funded the Antarctic Broadband program, which aims 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 will 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 has been the subject of considerable media coverage, including being featured on ABC TV’s Catalyst science program in early 2012, and was awarded an ‘Engineering Excellence Award’ by Engineers Australia in late 2011. Shoal continues to drive and support research in the satellite space, recently providing support to the SUSat – a QB50 nanosat project led by Dr Matthew Tetlow.