$2.5 million grant to boost space payload testing capabilities

Ensuring Australian-made satellites and other sensitive electronic equipment will operate correctly in space is the aim of a $2.5 million grant provided by the Morrison Government to the Australian National University (ANU).

The funding will enable the ANU and its space research partners to establish a National Space Qualification Network (NSQN), which will offer end-to-end payload testing services to Australian manufacturers.

Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Christian Porter said creating an end-to-end testing capability will save space manufacturers both time and money, as they will no longer have to send sensitive equipment offshore to ensure it meets Australian and international standards.

“Australia already has a range of sophisticated testing facilities that can simulate the vacuum, extreme temperatures, vibrations and G-forces encountered during space missions that can cause electronic equipment to fail or malfunction,” Minister Porter said.

“But an audit conducted last year by the Australian Space Agency identified gaps in our testing network, including the lack of a specialist ionising radiation testing facility.

“The funding provided through this grant will enable us to establish this capability within Australia, making it easier and cheaper for local businesses to qualify their products for sale into global and domestic supply chains.”

The funding will also help to establish Australia’s first dedicated space-focused “pyroshock” testing capability at the ANU’s Mount Stromlo space testing centre. Pyroshock testing measures the impact that the explosive forces generated during stage separation of rockets can have on payloads. 

The Morrison Government has identified the space sector as one of six National Manufacturing Priority areas (NMPs). More than $700 million has already been committed to support the sector’s growth, with the aim of tripling its size to more than $12 billion by 2030.

“That growth will help to generate an additional 20,000 highly-skilled and high-paid jobs within the space sector and allied manufacturing industries, providing a bright future for young Australians looking for rewarding careers at the forefront of scientific research,” Minister Porter said.

The organisations partnering with the ANU to form the space qualification network include: the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO); Steritech; University of Wollongong; Saber Astronautics; and Nova Systems.

Head of the Australian Space Agency Enrico Palermo said the National Space Qualification Network will bring a more commercial focus to space qualification.

“While the network will be spread across six states and territories, it will have a single point of entry for businesses, ensuring a simple and seamless experience and a strong commercial focus,” Mr Palermo said.

“By creating this service, we also believe that we can make Australia a highly desirable testing destination for overseas space manufacturers, generating more money for research and helping to boost our domestic economy.”

The $2.5 million grant was provided through the Space Payload Qualification Facilities component of the Australian Space Agency’s $19.5 million Space Infrastructure Fund. This fund addresses gaps in Australia’s space infrastructure to increase the nation’s space capability.