Australia is currently developing its first cubesat designed to predict where bushfires are likely to start and those that will be difficult to contain.
The development will take place at The Australian National University’s (ANU) Mt Stromlo campus, led by remote-sensing expert Dr Marta Yebra and instrument scientist Dr Rob Sharp.
For this project, the ANU Institute for Space (InSpace) has awarded AU$1 million (approximately US$665k) to the team to build an optical system that can detect changes on the ground through infrared detectors on-board the satellite. The ANU team will partner with other researchers and the private sector to complete the project and launch the new satellite into low-Earth orbit.
The new satellite will accurately measure forest fuel load and vegetation moisture levels across Australia. The technology will be specifically tuned to detect changes in Australian plants and trees such as eucalyptus, which are highly flammable.
“With this mission we will receive high-resolution infrared images and data of fuel conditions that will help firefighters on the ground,” said Dr Yebra, an InSpace Mission Specialist from the Fenner School of Environment and Society and the Research School of Aerospace, Mechanical and Environmental Engineering at ANU.
“This infrared technology and data, which is not currently available, will help to target controlled burns that can reduce the frequency and severity of bushfires, as well as their long-term impacts on Australia’s people, economy, and environment,” she added.
This satellite will be the first in a constellation of remote sensing satellites that will monitor Australia’s environment.
“The constellation will be designed to have a positive impact on Australia’s property management, insurance, geological, agriculture and defence industries,” she said.
“We will gradually build up our capacity to monitor these bushfire risks in Australia. At first, we will focus on long-term monitoring. Within the next five years, we plan to be able to monitor changes to our landscape and environment in real time.”