Lift off! Space projects soar with new funding

Ringer is the Director of Core Research Facilities. Credit: University of Sydney

Ringer is the Director of Core Research Facilities. Credit: University of Sydney

The three separate grants have been jointly awarded to Faculty of Engineering researchers and partner organisations to develop and manufacture aerospace infrastructure.

Researchers in the University of Sydney’s School of Aerospace, Mechanical and Mechatronic Engineering , the Australian Centre for Field Robotics , and the Australian Centre for Microscopy & Microanalysis have received over $800k for three collaborative space projects, under the federal government’s Modern Manufacturing Initiative and the Moon to Mars Demonstrator Feasibility Grants scheme.

The three separate grants have been jointly awarded to the researchers and partner organisations to develop and manufacture a low-cost, durable, liquid-fuelled rocket with high performance; to enhance robots’ navigation in space; and to allow the development of robotic sensors. 

Federal Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Christian Porter said Australia has unique opportunities when it comes to space manufacturing. 

"These grants will help bolster Australia’s reputation in the growing global civil space industry and build on the important work being led by our Australian Space Agency," Minister Porter said.

Australian Space Agency director Enrico Palermo said the Moon to Mars Demonstrator Feasibility Grant recipients highlighted the breadth, depth and excellence of skills in the Australian civil space sector. 

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Commercial launch market propels high performance rocket build 

Professor Simon Ringer  will work with metal parts manufacturer SPEE3D as the team set about revolutionising the space industry with a low-cost solution to mass produce metal 3D printed rocket engines in Australia. 

Professor Ringer said: "Big congratulations to SPEE3D - we are all excited at the prospect of working together on this project. Of all the many challenges that present in the design and manufacture of spacecraft, undoubtedly, the most challenging system is the rocket engine. The sustained high temperatures, complex stress states and highly corrosive environments create extreme materials engineering challenges."

SPEE3D Chief Technology Officer Steven Camilleri said: "SPEE3D has developed a new way to manufacture rocket engines quickly with our advanced manufacturing process. The MMI grant will allow us to work with the University of Sydney to design, qualify and manufacture test flight ready engines for the emerging industrial space market".

DINGO gives space-faring robots freedom to roam

The grant is part of a $150 million program announced in 2020 to help local small-to-medium enterprises join the United States government’s Moon to Mars space exploration program.

The University of Sydney team will work with project lead Abyss to develop a robotic sensor and intervention manipulator to undertake asset inspection and repairs during space-borne operations such as satellites. 

Dr Wu said the project is a prime example of industrial and research collaboration: "The rapid expansion of Australia’s space sector is being driven by the intersection of research and industry. Highly technical, value-add projects such as this will allow Australia to prove its worth as a valuable contributor to the global space effort.

"We’re thrilled to play a part in NASA’s grand ambition to establish a sustainable presence on the moon to prepare for missions to Mars," he said.

Head of Research and Development at Abyss Solutions, Dr Lashika Medagoda, said: "The project aims to apply Abyss’ market-leading expertise in robotic inspection to the challenges of space and partnering with the University of Sydney provides an opportunity to develop high-value technology and services to the space industry."

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