27 November 2017

Australia’s first space mission design facility opens in Canberra

| Glynis Quinlan
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UNSW Canberra yesterday launched its first miniature satellite into orbit from the United States. Photo: NASA.

Canberra now has the capability to develop space missions from start to finish following the opening of Australia’s first national space mission design facility in the territory today.

ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr officially opened the facility at the University of NSW Canberra in Campbell today, saying that it enhances Canberra’s reputation as Australia’s space capital.

The new Australian National Concurrent Design Facility (ANCDF) is jointly funded by UNSW Canberra and the ACT Government and supported through a partnership with the French Space Agency CNES (Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales), who are providing software and training.

UNSW Canberra Space director, Russell Boyce said that for the first time Australia has a facility that will enable spacecraft design engineers and scientists to rapidly design and determine the technical and economic viability of proposed space missions.

“Just yesterday, we announced the successful launch into orbit of our first cube satellite, ‘Buccaneer’ which was developed jointly with scientists from Defence Science Technology. This is the first of many UNSW Canberra missions,” Professor Boyce said.

“The ANCDF at UNSW Canberra will be a national asset here in the ACT that will support the new Australian Space Agency’s activities to grow and mature our domestic space industry.

“This is a world-class facility that will play an important role in the growth of jobs across the sector, including researchers, designers, engineers, technicians, software specialists, and beyond,” he said.

Scientists show the Chief Minister around UNSW Canberra’s new space mission design facility. Photo: Kylie Simmonds.

Mr Barr said the new facility will be used by some of the best and brightest engineering and academic minds in the nation.

“Combined with the Advanced Instrumentation Technology Centre at Mount Stromlo, we now have the capability for the design, assembly and testing of spacecraft and components for future space missions,” Mr Barr said.

“We have led the debate in Australia over a national space industry and I believe Canberra should be at the heart of Australia’s space capabilities.”

The Chief Minister at the opening of UNSW Canberra’s new space mission design facility. Photo: UNSW Canberra.

Mr Barr said that Australia is on the cusp of a significant economic development opportunity in the space industry, which globally is worth over AUD$440 billion and is growing at eight percent a year.

“On my recent trip to the United States, I met with Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Boeing, SpaceX, and Planet, which all share significant interests in space industry development,” Mr Barr said.

“These meetings cemented in my mind that Australia’s space agency must focus on the commercialisation of space and also clearly identify those niche areas where Australia has the capability to make an impact on this huge market.

“We are the home of the nation’s space industry leaders and Canberra has become Australia’s space capital.

“Canberra is the logical place for Australia’s national space agency to be located and this facility will provide Canberra and Australia with the edge that we need to succeed in this competitive market.”

UNSW Canberra Space is the university’s flagship space program and involves a team of more than 40 space engineers, scientists and Ph.D. students who, when combined, have decades of experience working on space programs for NASA and the European Space Agency.

UNSW Canberra also has a $10 million contract with the Royal Australian Air Force to build three spacecraft and carry out two space missions over the next two years.

Do you think Canberra really is Australia’s ‘space capital’ and the logical place for the national space agency? Let us know your thoughts by commenting below.

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