UNSW Canberra Space has partnered with CSIRO and SmartSat Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) on new water quality management mission, AquaWatch Australia.

The Australian National Concurrent Design Facility (ANCDF) at UNSW Canberra will play an integral role in the early phase of the mission.

AquaWatch is a 12-month scoping study for new space technology, including satellites and a network of ground-based sensors, which could be used to monitor the quality of Australia’s inland waterways, reservoirs and coastal environments.

Data gathered from space provides critical insights about water quality and natural events such as toxic algal blooms, the contamination of drinking water and excess runoff from irrigation.

Earth observation satellites currently only provide 60-70 per cent coverage for major Australian water bodies.

While the quality of some inland waterways is monitored directly by testing, this data is not routinely combined with satellite data.

“The AquaWatch mission is looking to complement on-ground water monitoring stations with space-based sensors,” ANCDF Manager and Space Systems Engineer Jan-Christian Meyer said.

“These sensors can be multi- or hyperspectral optical instruments that analyse subtle differences in the water colour to measure different water quality parameters.”

The UNSW Canberra Space team, along with partners from University of Queensland, Curtin University, Frontier SI, Water Research Australia and SatDek, are currently studying the AquaWatch mission in the ANCDF.

The ANCDF accelerates and improves mission design by enabling each member of the team, together with the customer or end user, to contribute their part to the project in parallel, significantly speeding up the design process.

“The CSIRO and SmartSat CRC teams have seen the benefit of applying concurrent engineering methodologies to the development of a space mission,” Mr Meyer said.

“In this early mission phase, they want to utilise the ANCDF to bring different stakeholders in the mission together and analyse mission architecture options. We have worked with them over the past months to define the scope of the ANCDF activity.”

A second ANCDF activity will be run towards the end of the project. UNSW Canberra Space will also contribute expertise regarding optical satellite instruments.

At the conclusion of the initial AquaWatch scoping phase, CSIRO and SmartSat expect to have a framework for future development of the mission.

Mr Meyer said space technology has proven to be an asset in managing a range of environmental challenges.

“Remote sensing applications can provide relevant information for all kinds of environmental issues such as bushfires, droughts, atmospheric change, ice cover and sea levels,” Mr Meyer said.  

“It can also help identify how these phenomena interact on a global scale.”

Find out more about AquaWatch Australia here.

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