Space and Radio Science News and Opportunities—January 2023

Space and Radio Science News and Opportunities

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News from the National Committee for Space and Radio Science

Sector update

The 76th International Astronautical Congress (IAC) will be hosted in Sydney in 2025. This is the principal international meeting dealing with space technology. The bid was led by the Australian Space Agency, the Space Industry Association of Australia, the NSW State Government, and Business Events Sydney. The 2017 IAC was held in Adelaide and was opened with the announcement of an Australian Space Agency.

The ARC has awarded funding for a new Centre of Excellence in Plants for Space, commencing in 2023. Headed by Prof Matthew Gilliham at the University of Adelaide, the P4S CoE includes several university partners (Flinders, Melbourne, Western Australia, La Trobe plus internationals) and 38 industry partners including the Australian Space Agency, the Defence Science and Technology Group and NASA. The centre aims to create on-demand, zero-waste, high-efficiency plants and plant products to address grand challenges in sustainability for space and on Earth. Anticipated outcomes include industry uptake of innovative plant forms, foods, technologies and commodities; and an ambitious education and international coordination agenda to position Australia as a global leader in research supporting space habitation.

Three other newly announced ARC centres of excellence also include space and radio science aspects: the Centre of Excellence in Optical Microcombs for Breakthrough Science (lead: RMIT University); Centre of Excellence for the Weather of the 21st Century (Monash University); and Centre of Excellence for Gravitational Wave Discovery (Swinburne University).

Other ARC funding successes include Discovery Project awards for solar cycle science (Newcastle and Sydney), and for meteorite and planetary science (Curtin).

The Moon to Mars Demonstrator mission grant scheme remains on hold pending review. However, two of six awards under the (unrelated) Trailblazers Universities Program are for space-related projects. The Defence Trailblazer for Concept to Sovereign Capability (CSC), led by the University of Adelaide partnering with researchers from the University of New South Wales and over 50 businesses, will develop new defence industry technology and defence products. Executive Director is Dr Sanjay Mazumdar, previously a partner and Chief Data Officer at KPMG, CEO of the Data to Decisions CRC, and head of Engineering Operations at BAE Systems Australia. Ms Christine Zeitz, General Manager Asia Pacific, Northrup Grumman is Chair of the Governing Board. Total funding is of the order of $250 million over four years, of which $50 million is from the federal government.

The Innovative Launch, Automation, Novel Materials, Communications, and Hypersonics program (iLAuNCH), led by the University of Southern Queensland in collaboration with the Australian National University, University of South Australia and 21 industry partners, will focus on development and production of rocket and launch facilities, satellite manufacturing, communication technologies and integrated sensing systems. The following senior leadership positions were recently announced: Darin Lovett (Executive Director, previously Director at SASIC), Dr Milica Symul (COO, previously Associate Director RMIT Space Industry Hub), Dr Joni Sytsma (CTO, previously CEO Outer Loop Engineering), and Dr Rosalind Dubs (Chair, Advisory Board; Director SmartSat CRC). Total funding is around $180 million, including federal funding of up to $50 million over four years.

The Australian Space Agency is consulting widely on its National Plan for Space, and on its Space Workforce Strategy. In addition, technical roadmaps for Positioning, Navigation and Timing; Applied Space Medicine and Life Sciences; and Space Situational Awareness, are in production. Also soon to be released is the Space Weather Roadmap from the Bureau of Meteorology’s Space Weather Forecasting Centre (previously the Space Weather Service).

The Conversations in Space mentoring scheme led by Katarina Miljkovic of the NCSRS has commenced its second round. The scheme pairs senior students and early career researchers with representatives from the Australian space sector, who provide insights and advice to support their career development. Development of the scheme was supported by the Theo Murphy Initiative but from 2023 it must transition to industry support.

Recent and forthcoming federal reviews

The new federal government has initiated several important reviews. Please be proactive in providing submissions, either individually, through your institution, or via the Academy’s NCSRS. Consultation dates for reviews of note are:

Decadal plan for space: implementation strategies

The NCSRS has been developing an implementation plan to accompany the decadal plan for space science which was launched in January 2022. The intention is for the implementation plan to outline key goals, strategies and responsibilities for realising the recommendations in the decadal plan. This process is being informed by extensive community and stakeholder consultation.


NCSRS member recognition

Congratulations to two members of the NCSRS for special recognition by the Australian Institute of Physics: Professor Celine Boehm—AIP Women in Leadership Medal; and Associate Professor Katarina Miljkovic—AIP Women in Physics Lecturer 2022.

More about the National Committee for Space and Radio Science

The significance and role of radio science: discussion paper

The National Committee for Space and Radio Science is developing a discussion document on the significance and role of radio science research in Australia. Its purpose is to outline opportunities for Australia in the next stages of research and development, to strengthen its scientific and technological bases, boost its manufacturing base, and develop its sovereign capability in critical areas of national security.

Radio science technology is ubiquitous—mobile phones, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, wireless communications, TV and radio, radar and radio telescopes are familiar to everyone. The field encompasses radio astronomy, non-destructive detection and imaging of objects in various media, the ionosphere and medical applications. Contemporary state-of-the-art applications make it a pathbreaking and exciting area of science and technology. It has a specific professional culture and a large global industry; basically, everybody (on the planet, and off!) is a user.

Australia has extraordinary achievements in its research and development. Radio astronomy requirements sparked developments in wireless local area networks (WLAN) and specifically wi-fi. The Square Kilometre Array (SKA), offering an unprecedented view of the early universe, will be located in Australia. The country plays a key role in deep space communication. Defence requirements drove development of the now fully operational Jindalee Operational Radar Network (JORN) providing long range surveillance capability. Ross McPhedran’s article, Radio Science: an Australian perspective, provides an excellent overview of historical development.

Australian radio science expertise resides in its universities, CSIRO, DST Group and industry—but a lack of sovereign capability, and national science and industrial priorities, hinder Australian development. Future innovation driven by advances in radio science (such as free space optical communications) will be significant and disruptive in equal measure.

A research capability, as part of the national investment in future technological development, will be essential in diversifying from an economy highly oriented to the resources sector and strengthening its role in the smart service sector and in modern manufacturing priorities. Critical workforce skills gaps in all the relevant STEM areas must be addressed. Finally, the role of science, and specifically radio science, as a soft power asset must be recognised.

The document recommends the formation of a body to advise government and stakeholders on:

  1. the need for radio science research capability as part of the national investment in future technological development
  2. measures to encourage uptake of careers in radio science
  3. the sustained development of radio science capability as part of a coordinated effort in science diplomacy.

The committee will promote the discussion paper when it is released.

Science and policy news from the Academy

The Academy brings together leading Australian experts to consider and advise the nation on scientific issues, providing authoritative information and advice on current science, technology and emerging research to inform discussion and assist evidence-based policy development and decision-making.

Science at the Shine Dome returns home

November 2022 saw the face-to-face return of the Academy's annual flagship event, Science at the Shine Dome. Australia’s most influential scientists gathered at the Shine Dome in Canberra to celebrate and honour outstanding achievements in science.

Australia to support Ukrainian Scientists through partnership with Breakthrough Prize Foundation

Ukrainian scientists who have fled the war with Russia or who have been unable to work due to the destruction of their workplace are set to receive a helping hand from their Australian counterparts. The assistance will come in the form of an A$800,000 donation from the non-profit Breakthrough Prize Foundation to the Australian Academy of Science.

(From left) Academy Chief Executive Anna-Maria Arabia, His Excellency Ambassador of Ukraine Vasyl Myroshnychenko, Academy President Professor Chennupati Jagadish, Ukranian scientist Professor Vladimir Chegel and Academy Foreign Secretary Professor Frances Separovic at the announcement of the assistance to Ukrainian scientists.

Interested in more policy and diplomacy updates? Subscribe to receive our quarterly Science Policy and Diplomacy Newsletter.

Community news

Funding and research announcements

Recent and upcoming conference and event dates

News from national representatives

Committee on Space Research (COSPAR)

Committee on Space Research, (COSPAR)
Australian representative: Professor Michael Ireland

5th Symposium of the Committee on Space Research (COSPAR): Space Science with Small Satellites (COSPAR 2023)

45th Scientific Assembly of the Committee on Space Research (COSPAR) and Associated Events ‘COSPAR 2024’

Like many organisations built around in-person international travel, COSPAR had a challenging time during COVID. However, the major assembly in Athens was successfully run mostly in-person. A theme emerging is recognition a major global challenge the space community should work on is climate change, and that the space science community can do more about supporting diversity. Hopefully the 2024 meeting in Busan, Korea, will be even more accessible for Australian attendees.

Scientific Committee on Solar-Terrestrial Physics (SCOSTEP)

Scientific Committee on Solar-Terrestrial Physics (SCOSTEP)
Australian representative: Associate Professor David Pontin

SCOSTEP is a thematic body of the International Science Council (ISC) with long-term objectives that include promoting international interdisciplinary programs in solar-terrestrial physics.

SCOSTEP recently amended its constitution. See the amended constitution.

The July issue of the SCOSTEP newsletter contains an article about a new initiative for space weather nowcasting/forecasting called SafeSpace, as well as highlights on young scientists and meeting reports. The October issue has articles on a new journey of the Arase satellite to the 25th solar cycle, and NASA's Moon to Mars Space Weather Analysis Office.

The committee hosted a capacity building lecture series, with the last lecture of 2022 occurring on 25 October. These lectures cover a range of topics in solar-terrestrial physics; see details including recordings of the lectures.

URSI Union Radio-Scientifique Internationale / International Union of Radio Science

URSI Union Radio-Scientifique Internationale / International Union of Radio Science
Australian representative: Dr Trevor James Harris

3rd URSI Atlantic/Asia-Pacific Radio Science Meeting (AT-AP-RASC 2022)

International Symposium on Electromagnetic Theory (EMTS 2023)

  • Vancouver, Canada, 22–26 May 2023
  • The conference is organised by Commission B and will focus on electromagnetic fields and their applications.
  • The call for papers and other information is at the website and closed on 15 December 2022.

XXXVth URSI General Assembly and Scientific Symposium (URSI GASS 2023)

URSI Asia-Pacific Radio Science Conference 2025 (AP-RASC 2025)

  • Sydney, August 2025

About URSI Commission G

The International Union of Radio Science (Union Radio-Scientifique Internationale) is a non-governmental and non-profit organisation under the International Science Council, and is responsible for stimulating and coordinating, on an international basis, studies, research, applications, scientific exchange and communication in the fields of radio science.

Under URSI there are several ‘commissions’ or focus groups. Commission-G deals with the study of the ionosphere in order to provide the broad understanding necessary to support space and ground-based radio systems. The commission interacts with other commissions, but particularly: C—Radio communication systems and signal processing; F—Wave propagation and Remote Sensing; H—waves in Plasmas; and J—Radio astronomy.

There are several working groups under the commission that cover finer detailed interests. More information on the working group.

Australian Institute of Physics Solar Terrestrial and Space Physics Group

Australian Institute of Physics Solar-Terrestrial and Space Physics Group
Contact: Dr Alina Donea

24th AIP Congress, December 2022

The congress was co-located with the Australian and New Zealand Conference on Optics and Photonics (ANZCOP), the 2022 Conference on Optoelectronic and Microelectronic Materials and Devices (COMMAD) and the 7th International Workshop on Speciality Optical Fibers (WSOF). Highlights of the event were a physics education-themed high tea, including a keynote presentation targeting high school teachers, university physics educators, PhD (Phys Ed) students and other congress delegates, organised by the AIP Physics in Education Group. The Diversity and Equity Group in Australian Physics held a networking session, including a keynote presentation. The Precision and Quantum Sensing Workshop brought together researchers and industry experts to discuss precision quantum sensing applications, with focus areas including precision magnetometry and defence applications in this space.

Follow the AIP Solar Terrestrial and Space Physics Group’s Facebook page for exciting space-related updates.

International Association of Geomagnetism and Aeronomy (IAGA)

Australian representative: Associate Professor Brett Carter

The Earth Reference Data and Models website has links to various IAGA resources, including the IAGA summer schools.

Science corner

20th Australian Space Research Conference

Dr Trevor Harris, Adjunct Associate Professor, University of Adelaide

The 20th Australian Space Research Conference (ASRC) was held in Sydney, New South Wales, from September 26 to 28 2022.

This was the 14th ASRC jointly sponsored and organised by the National Committee for Space and Radio Science (NCSRS) and the National Space Society of Australia (NSSA), with the support of the Mars Society of Australia (MSA).

The ASRC is the primary annual meeting for Australian researchers in space science and technology. It welcomes space scientists, engineers, educators and space professionals working in universities and research organisations, industry, government and NGOs.

This conference showcased the diverse fields of study that makes up space research. It was great to see many of the plenary talks also highlighted this point., with the breadth of presented papers reinforcing this—from satellite engineering and Earth environmental aspects to planetary science, human factors and biotechnology. A great meeting of minds and ideas and interdisciplinary networking. It was great to have the Australian space research community together to talk about our common goals, aspirations and experiences.

The total attendance was around 150 people with a daily average of 135.

There were over 100 papers, mostly as oral presentations, and some as posters.

A theme that spontaneously came out this year was how ‘space’ is a nexus for all science and engineering topics, evidenced by the diverse backgrounds of the participants and the plenary and abstract topics.

Mike Gallagher from Investment NSW spoke of the good things that Investment NSW is doing for space, and announced that Sydney would host the International Astronautical Conference in 2025.

The 13 plenary and invited speakers were:

  • Enrico Palermo (Head, Australian Space Agency)
  • Professor Brad Carter (University of Southern Queensland)
  • Dr Marguerite Evans-Galea AM (Director, ATSE mentoring program)
  • Dr Sarah Baker (Assistant Principal, Hamilton Secondary College Space School)
  • Stela Solar (Director, CSIRO National AI Centre)
  • Professor Melanie Johnston-Hollit (Director, Curtin Institute for Computation)
  • Rebecca Kuster (Bureau of Meteorology Space Weather Services)
  • Professor Michele Trenti (University of Melbourne, Melbourne Space Program)
  • Dr Hannah Schunker (University of Newcastle)
  • Professor Penny King (RSES Australian National University)
  • Dr Eleanor Sansom (Space Science and Technology Centre, Curtin University)
  • Professor Matthew Gilliham (Director, Waite Research Institute, University of Adelaide)
  • Dr Agnes Lane (Lead, Bureau of Meteorology National Space Mission for Earth Observation).

All speakers are leaders in their fields, and gave enthralling presentations on very interesting topics. Following the ASRC’s role in promoting gender equity and diversity in the space sector, I note that 9/13 invited and plenary speakers (69%) were women.

The main conference program consisted of sessions in education, history and law; AI and GNSS; remote sensing; space physics; space engineering; space situational awareness; space life sciences and space resources; space missions; planets; a space incubator session; and a poster session. See the full program details.

The conference finished with a town hall discussion led by Professor Fred Menk and Dr Brett Biddington AM. There was some lively discussions and a lot of good advice for the early career researchers and students in the room, as well as some very insightful comments for all present.

Professor Matthew Gilliham delivering one of the excellent plenaries at the conference.

The two highlights for me from the plenaries were:

  • Enrico Palermo, from the Australian Space Agency, discussed the agency's space workforce strategy currently in development. Its themes are training and employment pathways; talent attraction and skilled migration; collaboration coordination and leadership; vocational education and training; improving workforce data; and diversity and inclusion.
  • Professor Matthew Gilliham, from the Waite Institute, University of Adelaide, discussed the role of plants to provide nutrition, pharmaceutical and fibre needs for long-duration space missions, and benefits to capabilities on Earth. He talked about the Plants4space program at Waite Institute, UoA, developing sustainable and resource efficient food for space missions. There are obvious uses here on Earth for such biotechnology.

Dr Eleanor Sansom was awarded the Women-in-Space Professional Achievement Award.

Prizes for presentations were awarded as usual to a most deserving set of presenters. The judges for this year were Xueliang Bai, Annalea Beattie, Nick Bennett, Rod Boswell, Guifré Molera Calvés, Ann Cairns, Iver Cairns, Jon Clarke, Julie Currie, Kerrie Dougherty, Trevor Harris, Lucyna Kedziora Chudczer, Fred Menk, Tony Monger, Lily Qiao and Xaiofeng Wu.

Best Undergraduate Oral Presentation:

  • Prizes were awarded to Vanathy Arudselvan (University of Sydney), Daniel Berndt (UNSW Canberra) and Elise Blanchfield (RMIT University)

Best Postgraduate Oral Presentation:

  • Prizes were awarded to Jonah Hansen (ANU), Lenard Pederick (University of Adelaide, and Ian Stuart Bartlett (ACSER UNSW):

Best Student Poster Presentation:

  • Prizes were awarded to William Trevett (University of Sydney), Claire Murphy (UNSW), and Hely Branco (Curtin University)

Best Early Career researcher Presentation

  • Prizes were awarded to Rabbia Saleem (ANU), Julie Currie (RMIT University), and Stacey Henderson (Flinders University)


  • US Office of Naval Research Global (ONRG) provided a grant to help defray the costs of the conference
  • GOLD: Australian Space Agency (Australian Government)
  • GOLD: Investment NSW (NSW Government)
  • SILVER: NSW Space Research Network (SRN)
  • BRONZE: The Binocular and Telescope Shop (BINTEL)
A workshop on solar physics and space weather held immediately after the conference and convened by Dr Hannah Schunker connected key players in relevant areas in Australia.

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