Quick stats and graphs

Constellation of satellites near the Earth. A lot of satellites, space. Communication Concept

Utilising Microsoft Power BI, the following graphical representations have been generated to best represent the data as seen in the satellite register.

Each representation contains a figure brief description of the data displayed, and what this data depicts about the overall trends, downfalls, and highlights in the Australian-owned satellite data collected. The graphs are split into two categories: information regarding all Australian-owned satellites, and the other being data pertaining to the remaining active satellies.

Graphs Pertaining to all Past Launched Australian Satellites

Graph 1 - Number of Australian-Owned Satellite Launches Per Year

Australia has launched a total of 49 satellites, with this graph showing the number of launches of Australian-owned satellites in years that satellite launches occurred. Of all the years where launches occurred, an average of 2.2 satellites were launched.

Graph 2 - Launch Sites of All Australian Satellites

This world map shows the launch site of all Australian-owned satellites. Only 1 satellite has been launched in Australia, Japan, and India, 3 in China, 4 in Kazakhstan in an area called Russia Baikonur, which is a spaceport in Kazakhstan operated by the Russian Federation. The Guiana space center is used by the European Space Agency, and is the second largest launch site accountable for Australian satellites. Namely because its geographical location is close to the equator, meaning less energy is required to maneuvre the satellite into an equatorial geostationary orbit. Finally, the launch sites accountable for most Australian satellite launches are located within the United States. Some launch sites in the United States include Cape Canaveral, Vandenberg Space Force Base, and the Kennedy Space Centre.

Graph 3 - Number of Satellites by Mission Purpose

Allocation of the total number of Australian owned satellites into the 5 different mission purposes for satellites can be seen. As mentioned in the ‘About the Project’ page, Australia has no Earth observation satellites of its own, highlighting numerous downfalls in Australian sovereign capability, such as the fact that Australia must rely on other countries’ Earth observation satellites in order to monitor extreme weather events; a circumstance that Australia is especially susceptible to. The Australian Government, however, has recognised the need for this, and has pledge investments for Australia to grow its sovereign satellite capability, especially through development of Earth observation satellites. More information regarding this can be read on the 'About the Project' page.

Graph 4 - Number of Satellites by Mission Type

All Australian-owned satellites have been categorised as either non-profit, or commercial satellites. Non-profit satellites account for 14, or 28.57% of the total 49 Australian satellites that have been launched, whilst commercial satellites account for the other 35, or 71.43%. This may be due to faster innovation and development of satellites in the commercial sector from financial backing. Furthermore, lack of or downfalls in particular Australian Satellite capability may have created a growing market for satellite-based solutions for companies in the industry sector to provide services through the space industry.

Graph 5 - Total Number of Commercial Satellites Launched by Operator

With reference to graph 4, the number of commercial satellites launched can be broken down into the operators responsible for the launch. Optus is accountable for the largest portion of 35 satellites, launching 10 or 28.57%, as well as one more in conjunction with the Australian Defence Force. Namely as Optus is Australia’s only telecommunications provider that has its own fleet of satellites. This has enabled them to provide satellite-based communications services within the Australasian region, including services such as free-to-air TV, radio, internet, and voice and data transmission (Optus, 2023). Additionally, they have accounted for providing telecommunications and improving regional satellite communications needs that Australia requires due to having rural and sparse populations. The second largest operator, Skykraft, is responsible for 9, or 25.71% of Australian commercial satellites. Furthermore, Skykraft has launched these 9 satellites in 2023 alone, and is an Australian space services company with these satellites being used for space based air traffic management.

Graph 6 - Breakdown of Mission Purpose for all Commercial Satellites

With reference to graphs 3, 4, and 5, after breaking down the number of commercial satellites by operator, the number of commercial satellites can then be recategorised and displayed in terms of mission purpose. Again, Australian-owned satellites only fulfil the three mission purposes of communications, geodesy, and science, technology, and education. There has only been one Geodesy and science and technology and education launched commercial satellites, whilst the other 33 comprise of communications satellites. Due to the nature of Australia’s geographical location, there are several strategic advantages for satellite communication which allow better coverage in Southern regions of the Earth. Additionally, on account of Australia’s sparsely populated areas, communication infrastructure is limited. Thus, additional communications satellites are used to bridge the communication gap by providing coverage to areas that are traditionally more challenging to reach. The large sum of communications makeup can also be attributed to economic opportunities presented through operating commercial communication satellites. Overall, there is  stark majority of communications satellites being attributed to commercial satellites due to the considerable impact of communication infrastructure in Australia and economic ventures associated with this.

Graph 7 - Total Number of Non-Profit Satellites Launched by Operator

Similar analysis was also conducted for non-profit satellites, where a multitude of Australian Universities predominantly attributed to the 14 non-profit Australian operated satellites. This graph represents the fact that Australia has the ability to develop and launch satellites, reflecting the in-house capability. As mentioned in the ‘About The Project’ page which discusses Australia’s current fleet and the projection of its future fleet, this in-house capability will increasingly be facilitated through the EO manufacturing hub and National Space Mission.

Graph 8 - Breakdown of Mission Purpose for all Non-Profit Satellites

This graph also represents an 100% stacked bar chart for non-profit satellites launched, with reference to figures 3, 4, and 7. As these are non-profit satellites, the mission purpose breakdown varies drastically to what was seen for commercial satellites. A mission purpose of science, technology and education attributed to 12 of the 14 non-profit satellites, and only two satellites for communications. These were from the University of Melbourne’s OSCAR 5 (AO-5) which is now decayed, and the University of New South Wales’ M2-B which supports inter satellite communications. The University of Sydney, Curtin University, Adelaide University, and University of Melbourne make up the other 4 of the total 6 various university operators. Of the total non-profit operators, Universities make up 66.67% of the total, thus unsurprisingly a greater proportion of these satellites have been dedicated to science and technology.

Graph 9 - Number of all Commercial Satellites Launched Per Year

With reference to graph 5, figure 9 represents the number of commercial satellites that were launched per year. The first 6 satellites from 1985 to 1994 are attributed to Optus, which are all now either inactive or decayed. Optus has since launched satellites 2006, 2007, 2009, and 2014 to provide satellite telecommunications services with expected lifetimes of 15 years or more. Additionally, lifetime extension through use of robotics to adjust the satellite’s propulsion system has been implemented by Optus to extend the lifetime of their current existing satellites. Four of the five satellites launched in 2018 can be attributed to Fleet, a South Australian based space company which aims to improve communications and space technologies. There have been an increasing amount of satellites launched per year, and the frequency at which they are launched past 2014, as the space industry in Australia has continued to develop through investments and recognition of space based technologies.

Graph 10 - Number of all Non-Profit Satellites Launched Per Year

Graph 10 represents the number of non-profit satellites that have been launched by year. Evidently, there is a big gap between 1970-2002 where no non-profit satellites were launched, compared to the majority which has been launched post 2002. All satellites post 2002 displayed above have been in the CubeSat configuration, where CUAVA-1, launched in 2017, was Australia’s first CubeSat launch. The increase in Australian-owned satellite launches post 2017 can be attributed to development of CubeSats and their low cost and simple designs. Exploiting CubeSats have been a revolutionary step in Australia, and in particular Universities, in growing their participation in the space industry.

Graph 11 - Number of Satellites by Launch Mass

The mass breakdown of satellites for those which are not of CubeSat configurations is shown above. This graph account for all satellites launched. Some however, have been launched as one mass before separating into the individual satellites. For example, the Skykraft 1 series was launched as the main spacecraft, before SkyKraft 1A, 1B, 1C, and 1D separated into the individual satellites. This was the same for SkyKraft 3 series that was also launched in 2023. The two satllites that account for the heaviest launch mass are Sky Muster 1 (NBN 1A) and Sky Muster 2 (NBN 2A), which both had a launch mass of 6440kg. Typically, those satellites with a heavier launch mass are more complex and capable, for advanced telecommunications or Earth observation. According to the Australian Space Register, both NBN satellites are operated to employ broadband telecommunications within Australia and nearby islands under Australian jurisdiction.

Graph 12 - Number of Cube Satellites by Configuration

The launches of different CubeSat configuration types are displayed. As aforementioned, majority of CubeSat launches can be attributed to non-profit science, technology and education purposes. The standard dimensions for a 1U CubeSat is 10cmx10cmx10cm, where the dimensions for a 2U CubeSat will be twice this and so forth. Whilst being compact, simple, and cost efficient, some of their components include the structure, communications, power, altitude control, command and data handling, and the payload (Hatch, 2016). The configuration type is dependent on the mission, and larger CubeSat configurations may allow space for payloads, increased power availability (more space for solar panels), and an increased lifetime in orbit. The lifetime for a CubeSat generally depends on its orbital altitude, and the longer lifetime of larger CubeSats may be attributed to space for more propulsion systems, or their greater surface area which increases drag on the satellite, potentially slowing its descent into the Earth’s atmosphere.

Graph 13 - Number of Science and Technology Satellites Launched After 2000

​This graph is very similar to the graph reflecting all non-profit satellites launched per year, where majority were launched in 2017 and 2021. All non-profit satellites launched in 2017 attribute to non-profit science and technology satellites, with a total of 12 science and technology satellites launched post 2000, compared to only one launched prior in 1967. Again, these statistics can be attributed to the use of CubeSats becoming a viable and attractive option for Universities and Government industries.

Graphs Pertaining to all Active Australian Satellites

Graph 14 - Number of all Australian Satellites by Status

Of all 49 Australian-owned satellites launched, this graph shows the break-down of which satellites are active, inactive, or decayed. Decayed satellites are those that no longer exist in orbit, whilst inactive satellites are those that are no longer operational and have been moved to a graveyard orbit or are still in the Earth’s orbit. All active satellites are operational, meaning signals can be received from them. Decayed satellites account for 6 or 12.24% of Australian-owned satellites launched, whilst inactive satellites account for 11 or 22.45%.

A higher volume of satellites have been launched during and after 2017, with 9 of 49 satellites launched in 2023 alone. Thus, Australia currently has a more significant number (32 or 63.27%) of active satellites.

Graph 15 - Active Satellites by Orbit Type

Of the 32 active satellites, 25 are in geostationary orbit, whilst 7 are in low earth orbit. The dataset description table,  LEO satellites are defined as having an altitude between 160-2000km, and GEO of 35,786km above equator. For LEO orbits, their minimum altitude is due to atmospheric drag affects which would slow down satellite orbiting speed until the decrease in altitude would cause the satellite to burn up. In multiples, LEO orbits can be used for telecommunications purposes as a network of linked satellites to cover a larger region (Stewart, 2023). At a low altitude, LEO satellites can easily transmit data rather than satellites further away, all whilst costing less due to the less energy needed to launch them and being easier to manufacture due to their smaller size.

Geostationary orbits can cover a greater area of the Earth’s surface due being further away and they are typically communications satellites, meteorology purposes, and navigation.

Graph 16 - Number of Active Commercial Satellites by Operator

Of the 35 commercial satellites that Australia has launched, 27 remain active, whilst 5 are inactive, and three are decayed, with the oldest active satellite dating back to its launch in 1998 by EOS. The lifetime of these commercial satellites are typically longer than that of those non-profit satellites. This is generally as Government and Industry have originally designed their larger satellites to have a lifetime of about 15 years, as seen with Optus satellites. However, not only have a large amount of these satellites reached their exceeded design life, but some commercial operators have also extended their satellite lifetimes through use of robotic vehicles. Optus exemplifies this with plans to extend its D3 satellite  lifetime (which was launched in 2003) through the use of SpaceLogisitcs Mission Robotic Vehicle and Mission Extension Pod (Harrison, 2022). This would augment the satellite’s existing propulsion system, giving it up to 6 years of extra life (Harrison, 2022).

Graph 17 - Number of Active Non-Profit Satellites by Operator

Of the 14 non-profit satellites that have been launched, only 4 remain active. All non-profit satellites launched except one consist of the CubeSat configuration. This configuration typically has shorter operational lifetimes for satellites. CubeSats are designed with a shorter operational lifetime to align with low cost ventures, meaning they are generally designed to last a few weeks, months, or years before ceasing operations (Howell, 2021). Comparatively to the commercially designed satellites, non-profit satellites have been launched less frequently and less recently (graph 10), with graph 15 reflecting this.

Graph 18 - Active Satellites by Mission Purpose

Similarly to the breakdown process for all non-profit and commercial satellites, this graph represents the collective breakdown of all active satellites and their respective mission purpose. It also shows the operators responsible for satellites in each mission purpose, where the communications category is comprised of the largest number of operators. Again, this is due to the possible commercial ventures that may be associated with providing this service. The two operators accountable for the science and technology satellites are UNSW & DSTG, and UNSW and RAAF, which is also reflected in the pie graph of active non-profit satellites by operator.