A research and development partnership between Lockheed Martin Space and Curtin University has innovatively harnessed technology previously used to observe meteorite fireballs, and has applied it to track satellites. At a fraction of the cost of current technologies, the system has the potential to radically disrupt the way space objects in orbit will be tracked. These systems are an adaptation of our current DFN meteorite tracking capability.

The FireOPAL project uses a range of sensors to track satellites and space debris which will ultimately provide a persistent view of objects in orbit around the Earth. It will also provide an early warning system of potential problems affecting satellites and their interaction with the thousands of pieces of space debris.

Lockheed Martin Space Managing Director – Australia and New Zealand; Rod Drury, said that FireOPAL is an entirely Australian innovation developed by Lockheed Martin and Curtin University that is set to be expanded around the world.

“This technology enables us to track objects in space in a way that hasn’t been done before […] We are trialing more space situational awareness sensors and new capabilities to assess what is possible and explore the advantages and challenges of combining data from different sensors. This partnership with Curtin University further demonstrates Lockheed Martin’s ongoing commitment to collaborating with Australian researchers and industry to identify and develop advanced technologies for the space domain.

John Curtin Distinguished Professor Professor Phil Bland, leader of the Desert Fireball Network at Curtin University, reinforced the importance of partnerships with companies like Lockheed Martin for continuing to support, improve and potentially further develop Australia’s niche space capabilities.

“FireOPAL is a great example of how blue-sky space science projects can rapidly translate into real benefits for Australian space industries and defence. FireOPAL has the potential to be a disruptive technology in space situational awareness. We’re looking forward to exploring that potential with Lockheed Martin.”

The joint research and development partnership between Lockheed Martin Space and Curtin University was formally announced at the 68th International Astronautical Congress in September 2017.

To see how the DFN and FireOpal contributes to Curtin’s Space strategy, see Curtin’s Space Capabilities Brochure


Robert Howie
Binar space programme
Trent Jansen-Sturgeon
Trent Jansen-Sturgeon
Lockheed Martin Australia STELaRLab
Martin Cupák
Software Engineer
Curtin U.
Martin Towner
DFN Operations
Curtin U.