Congratulations to the EOS Space Systems' James Bennett, two-time winner of the Scientist of the Year 2020, for the Space and Defence Industry!
James Bennett, Head of Technology Development, was recognised for his work in his previous role as Astrodynamics Group Leader. James planned the direction and development of algorithms and software for a variety of applications in space sciences, primarily focusing on improving Space Domain Awareness (SDA) and the capability of tracking Earth-orbiting space debris.
Specific areas that he has contributed to include:
- Conjunction analyses;
- Orbit determination and propagation methods;
- Object characterisation;
- State error prediction;
- Object identification and correlation methods and;
- Data fusion methods.
His team has produced innovative advances in machine learning, image processing, data analytics and the management of a large space object catalogue.
James’ contribution to the company’s wider innovation has been primarily in tracking operation, data accuracy improvements, and mission planning.
“New algorithms have been developed that allow observation accuracy to be retained with higher throughput. This was achieved using a combination of mathematical modelling and astrometric processing to fuse observational data and correct the raw telescope pointing, even in narrow fields of view systems”, explained James.
These methods are unique and ensure EOS provide quality observation data across all orbital regimes, including low-Earth orbit.
The data production of each tracking system has been increased and therefore the overall throughput of the EOS tracking network has been expanded with no equipment changes. With the accuracy improvements, the data delivered to customers increases four-fold.
Outside his day-to-day work at EOS Space Systems, James’ active research interests include orbit determination and prediction, conjunction assessments, applied mathematics, debris object characterisation, optical and laser tracking, control theory and optimisation, and singular and regular perturbation methods. He is a published author and is frequently invited to speak and participate as a panellist on the subject of SDA.
James is a member of the International Laser Ranging Service (ILRS) Governing Board as a representative of the Western Pacific Laser Tracking Network (WPLTN). He is also a member of the ILRS Missions Standing Committee, which is responsible for reviewing requests for laser tracking and recommending whether satellites are tracked by the ILRS and also assessing its priority within the current tracking list. James also actively participates in the ILRS Space Debris Study Group.
James maintains an active collaboration with researchers from several universities and research organisations including Adelaide University, the Australian National University, RMIT University, University of Sydney, University of South Australia, Korea Astronomy and Space Science Institute, Graz SLR Observatory, Borowiec SLR station, University of Arizona, and University of Texas at Austin.
James’ vision for scientists in the future space industry is for them to have a clear pathway from university study to industry.
“I think we lose some of our best scientists to overseas organisations because there is a clearer career path and more advancement opportunities in large companies. I’d also like to see a strong focus on STEM education supplemented with specific outreach programs so that the younger generation are interested in pursuing a career in Australia’s space industry”, James said.
With the rise of machine learning and artificial intelligence, James believes the future of the Australian industry will need to be equipped with skills that can provide innovative solutions in rapidly changing and contested environments.
“A strong collaboration between Australia’s space industry and the Australian Space Agency will strengthen our contribution to global space efforts and grow the industry. Also, working closely with defence is an essential component for the Australian space industry to understand defence needs and provide solutions that are cost-effective and increase the safety of war-fighters.
The space sector is a good example of where a strong defence industry can readily support defence activities and advancements. The US have shown that a strong space industry leads to rapid innovations and disruptive technologies. Fostering a similar approach in Australia is important and the niche technologies that Australia develop are core capabilities for next generation war-fighting”, James added.
For this to continue to grow, James believes the Australian space industry needs the support of the Australian Space Agency and the Australian Defence Force and, where possible, favouring Australian industry capability over foreign.
“This would strengthen Australia’s industry sector and contribute to a stronger space sector since we would have a greater investment in sovereign capabilities for use in strategic alliances and own national security”, James explained.