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Space boost for Aussie research

Australia from space

Three new projects have been given the green light under the Australian Space Research Program.

IMPROVING THE WAY SATELLITES move in orbit, having more accurate weather predictions and creating a new education pathway for science and engineering students are the possibilities that will stem from the Federal Government’s $6.1 million investment in new space research and education projects.

Announcing three new projects under Round 4 of the Australian Space Research Program (ASRP), Innovation Minister Senator Kim Carr said discoveries in space science may help solve some of Australia’s and the world’s biggest challenges.

“Space science is no longer about a race to the Moon. Rather, it has the power and potential to help us address major issues that affect our quality of life like health care, food production and climate change,” Senator Carr said.

“Australia’s space and engineering research is among the best in the world—Excellence in Research for Australia showed 85 per cent or more of the units assessed in the space sciences and related areas of engineering are world standard or above—and our space-related industries are growing.”

Through the ASRP, South Australian company Vipac Engineers & Scientists will partner with research bodies to develop a sensor to improve the measurement of greenhouse gases. The Government is investing $2.3 million in this project, which will help better detect climate change and predict the weather.

The Australian National University will partner with national and international industry bodies to develop a better propulsion system for satellites and deep-space missions.

Exhaust of a plasma thruster in a laboratory experiment at ANU.

Exhaust of a plasma thruster in a laboratory experiment at ANU.

The Australian Plasma Thruster project will aim to develop a spaceflight-ready Australian plasma thruster design based on the helicon double layer technology invented and developed at the Australian National University.

If successful it will find a market in satellite propulsion systems, including for station-keeping, end-of-life satellite insertion into graveyard orbits, and ultimately for deep space missions.

The $3.1 million in funding will also help build a space simulation facility at the ANU. The facility will be a research hub for space scientists, astronomers and industry bodies looking to develop space equipment.

Supporting the next generation of researchers, the University of New South Wales will partner with national and international space industry bodies and use their $675,000 grant to formulate and deliver a two-year Masters degree program in satellite systems engineering.

The aim is to help address the current education gap and help prepare graduates with industry experience for Australia’s developing space industry.

Adapted from information issued by the Australian Government.

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Aussie space research facility launched

AITC exterior shot

Construction has begun on the second stage of the Advanced Instrumentation and Technology Centre at Mount Stromlo near Canberra.

CONSTRUCTION OF A STATE-OF-THE-ART facility to develop and test advanced space science technologies has been officially launched at Mt Stromlo Observatory.

Innovation Minister Senator Kim Carr launched the building of phase two of the Advanced Instrumentation and Technology Centre (AITC-2).

The new one-of-a-kind facility, funded under the Education Investment Fund program, will initially support development of the international, billion-dollar Giant Magellan Telescope and a number of Australian Space Research Program projects.

The Australian projects include supplying broadband Internet access to research teams in Antarctica; taking gravity field measurements for water management across Australia and monitoring the movement of dangerous space debris.

Director of the Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics at Mt Stromlo, Professor Harvey Butcher, said that the goal is to make the AITC a national centre for university, government and industry collaboration.

“This new building aims to provide a ‘one stop shop’ to develop and test small satellites for remote sensing and telecommunications, as well as instruments for astronomy and astrophysics,” said Professor Butcher.

“The assembly of such precision equipment requires high-quality clean rooms, vacuum chambers, test benches and a vibration table designed to test the dynamical behaviour of instrumentation, for example such as occurs during launching into orbit.”

“Astronomy is remote sensing at its most remote, and the facility will be available for use by the remote sensing community from universities, government organisations and commercial industry,” he added.

“An important focus will be collaboration with industry, including a partnership with EOS Space Systems to develop Adaptive Optics—a technology capable of de-blurring images made through the Earth’s atmosphere.”

Adapted from information issued by ANU.

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