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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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