Australia’s spacecraft and satellites will better survive damaging radiation and extreme conditions thanks to $2.5 million in funding for improved space testing facilities at The Australian National University (ANU).

The new funding will help create a national network of space testing facilities led by ANU researchers that will launch Australia into an elite group of countries with this kind of advanced capability.

The bulk of the funding from the Australian Space Agency will go to the Heavy Ion Accelerator at ANU, allowing tech – including components destined for space, like computers and other devices – to be tested against extreme radiation.

The rest of the money will be used to upgrade the National Space Test Facility at ANU as well as other facilities across Australia.

Director of ANU Institute for Space Professor Anna Moore said the new funding and upgraded facilities would help “launch Australia’s burgeoning space industry to another level”.

“This generous funding will ensure Australian space innovations can be tested to easily enter new markets around the world,” Professor Moore said.

“Australia’s space industry is growing. Upgraded facilities will mean we can make sure the payloads we send into space, including satellites and spacecraft, are able to survive before they blast off.

“Testing space payloads, components and spacecraft before they are launched into space helps make space missions more successful. One key threat to satellites is radiation.  

“This funding will deliver much-needed, state-of-the-art radiation testing facilities to ensure the success of Australian space missions.

“ANU is leading a national team of research and industry partners to use their combined infrastructure to offer this radiation capability.”   

Professor Moore said many Australian companies were looking to “pivot to space,” and the new national network of facilities will make sure their products are space ready.

“This funding and national network of upgraded facilities will make it easier to do that,” she said.

“Australian companies who have never worked on space can now cast their gaze upwards and to the final frontier; developing and testing components and hardware that are vital to the success of space missions before they leave the planet.

“This funding will help transform Australia into a world-leading space qualification ecosystem with reach across the Indo-Pacific region.

“This is an exciting time for Australia’s space industry, and I want to thank the Federal Government and the Australian Space Agency for their support for this vital work.”

The new funding, part of the Space Infrastructure Fund from the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources, will bring together the work of six partners:

  • ANU will deliver internationally-recognised radiation testing, the ability to monitor sensitive hardware in the largest thermal vacuum chamber in Australia (the WOMBAT XL), the first standardised pyroshock testing facility in Australia and better temperature mapping during testing. 
  • Nova Systems will support ANU with its space expertise, bringing to bear its knowledge of qualification testing, Australian testing facilities and space sector players. Nova Systems will also support the development of an online database of off-the-shelf tested parts.
  • The Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) will apply its expertise to ensure Australia is able to meet the international standard for Total Ionisation Dosage (TID) radiation testing. It will ready its suite of irradiation capabilities to cover all levels of radiation testing, so that Australian products can enter into global supply chains faster and our local space industry can innovate at speed.
  • Steritech will offer large scale radiation testing for industry at locations in QLD, NSW and VIC.
  • The University of Wollongong will develop laser-based screening to provide a low-cost service to industry in preparation for full radiation testing and testing of sector-supplied off-the-shelf components.
  • Saber Astronautics will integrate qualification with the Mission Control Centre data and infrastructure standards, determining the appropriate space environment profiles for qualification testing.

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