Satellites to reveal sea state and much more than the eye can see | 3/12/2007 | Staff
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UNSW Sydney engineers are developing new satellite technology that can be used to determine the state of the seas as well as a number of other useful applications.

Real-time information about wild seas and unfavorable ocean conditions could be used to make shipping more safe and efficient thanks to passive radar technology being developed by UNSW Sydney engineers.

Technology - Interest - Defence - Force - Ability

And the technology has also piqued the interest of the Australian Defence Force because of its ability to 'see' through cloud and tree cover while maintaining radio silence.

Professor Andrew Dempster of UNSW's School of Electrical Engineering and Telecommunications has been developing and trialling a new type of receiver that looks for satellite navigation signals bounced from the Earth's surface in a process called reflectometry.

Reflectometry - Looks - GPS - Signals - Satellites

As he explains, reflectometry looks at the GPS signals that come directly from satellites as well as where, and at what angle, the signals bounce off the earth's surface. He and his colleagues have built four generations of receivers that are designed to look for these bounced GPS signals from satellites overhead.

"This most recent generation of our GPS receivers we have put into space aboard CubeSats," Professor Dempster says, who is also director of the Australian Centre of Space Engineering Research.

CubeSats - Satellites - Space - Research - Fraction

CubeSats are miniaturized satellites used in space research which are a fraction of the cost to launch and maintain due to their tiny proportions—the UNSW-EC0 satellite was 10cm x 10cm x 20cm and about 2kg. A CubeSat fitted with "Namuru" or "Kea"—two of the receivers tested so far—is able to provide live analysis of the ocean conditions, or "sea state," by recording bounced GPS signals from the sea's surface.

"What we do is measure the delay from the satellite to surface and back to the receiver on the satellite," Professor Dempster says. "Because there are multiple facets on ocean waves that it...
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