24 September 2023

Chief Minister lays out plans to develop and support the space industry in Canberra

| Andrew McLaughlin
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ISS Screenshot of Canberra bushfires

The 2022 Curraweela Fire as seen from the International Space Station yesterday. Photo: Screenshot

ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr has launched his government’s policy to attract space-focused businesses and research organisations to Canberra.

Dubbed ACT Space Update 2023, Mr Barr highlighted in a 22 September release that Canberra’s “knowledge-based economy, space governance leadership, innovative networks and commitment to a diverse and inclusive workforce” are the “right settings for space industry success”.

He said the Update builds on the government’s CBR Switched On: ACT’s Economic Development Priorities 2022-2025.

That document states, “Our ambition is to position Canberra as a city where innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship are encouraged and celebrated.

“To do this, we will build on our existing infrastructure, digital mindset, world-class tertiary education and research sector, cooperative regulatory settings [and] highly educated population.”

It also includes a plan to develop a Canberra Space Hub, which will act as a connection point between research, industry and government.

Mr Barr said the ACT Space Update 2023 aims to establish Canberra as a gateway to space through four missions:

  • Build a fit-for-purpose and diverse workforce through inclusive education and training pathways across education and tertiary institutions.
  • Expand scientific research capability by building partnerships with industry, as well as connecting industry with customers to facilitate commercialisation.
  • Unlock investment and global markets by accelerating small and medium enterprise capability to both attract and increase participation in global markets.
  • Promote ACT space-based technology and the downstream services sector using advocacy, marketing and ‘Team Canberra’ promotional support.

Mr Barr said the ACT Government will contribute $1 million towards an ACT space research and development partnering program, a figure that will be matched by the consortium of universities and research organisations, SmartSat CRC.

This contribution will fund two projects – the OzFuel space-based sensor platform and Smart Multi-modal Optical Surveillance System (SMOS).

READ ALSO New space technology testing facility opens at ANU

OzFuel will design, build, and validate a space-based telescope optical system with an infrared sensor package and develop and test the underpinning bushfire science algorithms. Building on a previous SmartSat-funded project dubbed Bushfire Resilience, OzFuel will deliver a payload on the Resilience Mission that will enable monitoring of Australian bushfire fuel flammability from space, assisting in bushfire prevention, detection, mitigation and resilience.

SMOS is designed to help respond to the risks of an increasing number of space objects in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) through the rapid development and testing of a novel capability for the continuous and autonomous detection and identification of space objects.

“These projects highlight the capability of Canberra’s space industry and our competitive advantages, which create the right environment for meaningful partnerships to thrive, helping businesses to create jobs and grow,” the Chief Minister’s release reads.

Smart Sat CEO Professor Andy Koronios said his organisation had already demonstrated its commitment to building the ACT’s space R&D capabilities by funding more than 10 projects at the ANU and UNSW Canberra.

“We are therefore excited to support this proactive agenda laid out by the ACT Government. This fresh round of research investment by SmartSat delivers a rapid injection to the ACT Space Update,” he said.

“We believe it will have a force-multiplier effect on the development of space R&D capability in the ACT and provide direct support to the ANU’s broader Earth Observation Resilience Mission with critical technology.

“SmartSat is building the foundation for a strong and successful national space sector. Through strategic investments that bring together prime industry players such as EOS Space Systems and emerging companies like Infinity Avionics with Australia’s leading universities, we are developing the specialist capability needed to grow a robust commercial space industry.”

ANU Institute for Space (InSpace) Director Professor Anna Moore added, “ANU InSpace is delighted to be working with the SmartSat CRC and ACT Government on a range of projects that lift our sovereign manufacturing sector and solve some of society’s greatest challenges, including climate change adaptation.”

UNSW Canberra Space Director Dr Ed Kruzins added, “The funding announced for this research is so important because operating in an extreme environment like space is complex and challenging, and artificial intelligence is key to making this a simpler and less risky task.

“These projects put the ACT in the box seat for the next generation of space activities and UNSW Canberra Space is really excited about our role in the sector and being a central player in the ACT’s growing space industry.”

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Lost in space barr

Tom Worthington8:54 am 25 Sep 23

The ANU’s National Space Test Facility on top of Mount Stromlow looks like a Bond villain’s lair. There are huge machines for testing spacecraft, and a clean room with people in inflated suits. But building spacecraft is also about bright ideas. Recently a student came up to me and said they were in a team who had designed a rocket engine for launching spacecraft into orbit, and they wanted to know where to go for funding to develop it.

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