UNSW researchers will develop satellite surveying technologies that will allow flooding, bushfires, deforestation and earthquakes to be monitored in real time under a $4.7 million Australian Space Research Program grant from the Federal Government.

Associate Professor Andrew Dempster, of UNSW's School of Surveying and Spatial Information Systems in the Faculty of Engineering, will lead a consortium investigating "flying formations" of Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR)-equipped satellites to allow highly accurate, three-dimensional imaging of the Earth's surface, creating new, niche space capabilities for Australia.

"Flying satellites side-by-side allows an instant 3D surface map to be produced, while flying them one above the other might allow us to examine the depth of forest material," Associate Professor Dempster said.

"This project will investigate all aspects of these formations, including accurate positioning of the spacecraft using GPS, and determining the best orbits for this type of satellite."

Associate Professor Dempster said the SAR Formation Flying project would ultimately enable real-time satellite monitoring of disasters such as floods and fires and may also be used to help predict earthquakes and volcanoes by measuring ground surface distortion.

The Australian Defence Department is committed to developing its own SAR satellite capabilities as part of a move to increase its self-reliance in space operations.

UNSW's collaborators on the three-year project are WA's Curtin University of Technology, Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, UK's Astrium Ltd, BAE Systems of Adelaide and General Dynamics of New Zealand.

UNSW has received $5.65 million over the first two rounds of the Australian Space Research Program, the highest amount awarded to any organisation to date.

For more information on UNSW's satellite research, visit the SNAP Lab home page.

Media contact: Associate Professor Andrew Dempster | 02 9385 6890 | a.dempster@unsw.edu.au

UNSW Media Office: Peter Trute | 02 9385 1933 | p.trute@unsw.edu.au