The Australian Federal Government has launched Australia’s first national space policy at Canberra’s Mount Stromlo Observatory. The launch showcased 14 Australian space research projects, funded by a $40 million Federal Government investment to support space-related research and education. Melbourne’s RMIT is one six universities in Australia to receive the funding boost, our favourite University scored almost $3M in funding ::::
Another superneat project to receive funding is the University of South Australia’s Space-based National Wireless Sensor Network. The project will develop cost effective space-based communications to address Australia’s needs, particularly in remote and regional areas:
- For monitoring of climate change and barrier reef ecosystem management; and
- Supporting industries such as mining and agriculture.
The South Australian project aims to provide cost effective data retrieval from large numbers of remotely located sensors and devices beyond the range of land based communications. It will build significant, Australian space capability, generating intellectual property and enabling technologies and promote an ongoing program of internationally significant space research and development in Australia. One example of use is the monitoring of Myrmidon Reef – an outer reef in the Great Barrier Reef – which has poor communications due to it’s remoteness. The site is important for monitoring warm water events coming in from the Coral Sea, helping with research into Climate Change.
So what’s the program fund? Pretty much anything that’s based in space, according to the Australian Space Research Program. It’s currently funding the design, development and building of hardware and systems to be located in space; for the purpose of getting into or returning from space, or for the purpose of getting data or information to or from space. Very Neat!
The funding will come in two streams, Space Education projects, supporting: student projects and education activities, including international education opportunities and the establishment of national space education programs and centres of expertise for space education.
…and a second stream that supports: collaborative space research and innovation projects involving the development of Australia’s niche space capability in areas of strategic national priority. International collaboration is encouraged. Senator Kate Lundy says the money will go towards developing technology to make satellites run more effectively.
“No Aussies in space any time soon,” she said. “But as I made very clear, how we use our satellite capability and space policy generally is something that will always be part of our future.”
While Australians access over 600 satellites presently, Senator Lundy says the policy will ensure continued access in the future.
“Satellite capabilities affect our day to day lives in a huge number of ways,” she said. “The Australian Government and the Australian people have a direct interest in our satellite capabilities and ensuring we have ongoing affordable and easy access to the technology.”
Another project to benefit from the funding, is the Australian Plasma Thruster, an engine that can use almost anything as a fuel in the vacuum of space. Researcher Professor Christine Charles says it will make satellites in orbit more durable.
“One nice advantage is that it doesn’t have any parts that can erode, or break up,” Professor Charles said. “It’s very simple technology and it can work on a variety of propellants, oxygen, nitrogen, argon, xenon and even human waste.”
The projects – wait for this, it’s such a cool name – Helicon Double Layer Thruster or HDLT, is being developed in the Space Plasma, Power and Propulsion Group Professor Charles at the Research School of Physics and Engineering at the ANU. Dr Charles invented the world’s first HDLT, the propulsion concept has the potential to propel humans to Mars and beyond at a fraction of current costs.
Senator Lundy says a central space research office will also be set up by the middle of the year.
“Many of our agencies and departments including Geoscience Australia and the Department of Meteorology play a role. The space policy coordination unit will be able to be a go-to point for anyone working in or around or wanting to interact with Australians and playing a role in space policy.”
The satellite business is expected to generate $12 billion for the Australian economy by 2030. The image above is Australia’s first satellite, it was launched from Woomera Rocket range in Australia’s Outback way back in 1967.
image source: honeysucklecreek