The next frontier will require advanced technologies such as machine learning to fully grasp the opportunities.

SmartSat CRC

The SmartSat Collaborative Research Centre is paving the way for the future of satellites. AIML's Director of Machine Learning for Space Engineering, Professor Tat-Jun Chin, is the Professorial Chair of the Sentient Spacecraft program within SmartSat.

  • Tackling Traffic Congestion in Space

    TJ Updated

    Professor Tat-Jun Chin, Director of Machine Learning for Space Engineering

    Thousands of man-made objects orbit the Earth, including satellites, space installations, space debris and junk.

    One or two operating satellites are lost in space crashes each year, as more nations and commercial companies develop space programs.

    There is an increasing need to monitor space traffic, to try to prevent collisions and damage to trillions of dollars worth of technological investments.

    Professor Tat-Jun Chin leads a multidisciplinary research team, working in collaboration with industry to develop a space- based surveillance system.

    They aim to deploy satellites that use optical sensors to detect objects in space, increasing the capability and utility of space situational awareness.

    The team won a global challenge hosted by the European Space Agency.

    They used a unique combination of machine learning and 3D vision algorithms to determine the most accurate orientation of an object in space, edging out 50

    competitors from some of the world’s most prestigious universities and space technology companies.

    "Figuring out the orientation of an object is a long-term study problem in computer vision and AI,” Prof Chin says.

    “If you want to program a robotic arm to make coffee, you need to figure the orientation of the object with respect to the robot; we are now applying those techniques in space.”

    Our team’s research forms an important component of the growing local space industry.

    It could be the foundation for new technologies to remove space debris, or to refurbish and prolong the life of ageing space assets and prevent them adding to space pollution.

    It could even facilitate development of space depots; jumping off points for distant space travel.

    All these exciting possibilities begin with space traffic management.