Space partnership monitors Earth

Engineering’s partnership with the German Aerospace Centre monitors the Earth's environmental changes

In 2018, La Trobe Engineering’s partnership with the German Aerospace Centre (DLR) successfully launched a satellite camera into space to monitor bushfires, natural disasters and environmental changes across the world.

The partnership was the first of its kind for an Australian university, with the DLR Earth Sensing Imaging Spectrometer (DESIS) now installed on the International Space Station.

La Trobe researchers designed a data processing and high-speed electronics module that formed a key part of this hyperspectral imaging system.

Since then, La Trobe and DLR have continued to create instrumentation to image the Earth’s surface from space, fixed wing aircraft and Unmanned Arial Vehicles (UAV).

“The research partnership is devoted to improving the processing speed and increasing the resolution of imagery from space, fixed wing aircraft and UAVs,” says La Trobe researcher, Dr Peter Moar.

“We are optimising the time it takes to capture an image, process it, and deliver it to where it is needed most.”

The technology has numerous applications. “DESIS measurements greatly advance our ability to characterise vegetation health and stress, water quality and pollution, as well as mineral resources on Earth,” explains Moar.

“The technology supports the management of agricultural and forest ecosystems, monitors biodiversity, and greatly enhances our understanding of important carbon and water cycling processes.”

The 15-year partnership between La Trobe and DLR “highlights decades of expertise in La Trobe University’s Engineering Department to design and develop advanced electronic systems for hazardous environments such as space,” Dr Moar says.

“It also cements Victoria’s, and Australia’s, position as world-leading for space research and engineering.”