Welsh university partners with Australian international space communication experts
A Welsh university is part of an international partnership which is literally looking to the stars to create more secure and efficient communication.
Working alongside Edith Cowan University (ECU) in Australia and observation data company QL Space, the collaboration involving University of South Wales will focus on ‘free space optics’, which uses light all around, which we can’t see, to communicate by sending data via light particles, or photons.
ECU School of Science Senior Lecturer Dr Shihao Yan said this brought with it many benefits compared to using radio frequencies to send information.
“When information is sent from point A to point B via free space optics, an encoder and a decoder are placed at each end so as to ensure the security and integrity of the information being transmitted and these measures can provide protection against hacking and signal jamming,” Dr Yan said.
“It can also transmit more data at once, and it’s more efficient. We can send, let’s say, an image, a longer distance but still use less energy to do so.”
QL Space founder and CEO Raj Gautam said data could be sent to space via photons or particles of light, where satellite technology can relay it elsewhere in the world.
“This technology offers several advantages over traditional radio wave communication, including higher data rates and lower power consumption, which answers a big need in the communications industry,” he said.
“There are only a limited number of radio frequencies you can transmit data on, especially in the low Earth orbit, and they are getting more difficult to come by. So there’s a real need for a better way of transmitting information in space, that gives free space optics a unique appeal.”
The partnership will see a satellite ground station built near ECU’s Joondalup campus in Perth’s north, planned to be built in the middle of this year. It will eventually be one of many in the global network of stations jointly established with USW.
Dr Leshan Uggalla, a senior lecturer at USW who is leading the partnership, said: “USW is delighted to be part of this collaboration to strengthen the relationship with Edith Cowan University and QL Space, Australia. The partnership will help enhance space capabilities and skills in both regions while experimenting with novel technologies.
“The proposed ground station in Joondalup, Western Australia, will operate simultaneously as part of a proposed global network to facilitate multiple research activities, including Space surveillance, advanced communications and experimental propagation studies.
“Here at USW, we welcome and are excited about this new partnership and look forward to working together for greater success.”
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