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Space air traffic management firm opens facility

written by Adam Thorn | March 24, 2022

An Australian business planning to launch a space-based air traffic management service has just opened a new manufacturing facility in Canberra.

Skykraft’s new home will support the development of a 300-kilogram space payload, scheduled to launch aboard a SpaceX rocket from Florida later this year.

Space-based ATM services aim to deliver surveillance and communications data for aircraft travelling across regions not covered by existing systems, including oceanic or remote locations.

The satellites also reduce blindspots often found in ground-based surveillance, increased situational awareness and improve coordination of cross-border operations.


“Skykraft’s space-based solution allows real-time communications between air traffic controllers and pilots, allowing for the reduction in separation between aircraft over oceanic airspace, enhancing efficiency and delivering environmental benefits,” Skykraft’s chairman, Air Vice Marshal (Ret’d) Mark Skidmore, said.

“Our satellite constellation will be a world-first, proudly out of Australia.”

The payload developed at its UNSW Canberra City campus is to be the largest manufactured in Australia and will form part of a proof of concept for the prospective deployment of a constellation made up of over 200 satellites.

The new Skykraft facility was officially opened by head of the Australian Space Agency, Enrico Palermo, who noted its contribution to the growth of the local space sector.

“This facility further emphasises the great momentum that’s been fostered since the establishment of the Australian Space Agency and why space is one of six priorities under the Australian government’s Modern Manufacturing Strategy,” Palermo said.

“When our space sector grows it not only creates opportunities within those space businesses but across a range of industries, which means jobs with all different skillsets.”

In total, the new facility is tipped to produce five satellites by 30 June 2022 and a further 12 satellites in the second half of 2022.

Production is expected to ramp up in 2023, with 45 satellites scheduled for production in the first half of 2023 and 120 satellites in the second half.

In January, Australian Aviation reported how Skykraft agreed a deal with Airservices Australia on implementing the technology from 2023.

The landscape of air traffic management has taken a turn over the past few years as governments attempt to deal with the next generation of drones and electric aircraft infiltrating the skies.


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