nandin startup has its moonshot in sight

October 12, 2021

ANSTO, Australia’s knowledge centre for nuclear science and engineering, is part of Australia’s Space Race, helping Australian companies develop technology for the nation’s fledgling space industry.

Deep tech startup Ouranos Systems, supported by the NSW Government funded ANSTO FutureNow Scholarships and ANSTO’s nandin Innovation Centre, has been awarded a “Moon to Mars” grant, sponsored by the Australian Government, to design and construct a self-contained Radioisotope Heating Unit (RHU).

Ouranos Systems co-founder Dr Robert Mardus-Hall said the RHU is basically a ‘space heater’ which ensures critical instruments on Australia’s first ‘Moon probe’ can operate over multiple lunar nights.

“Night-time on the Moon lasts for just over 14 ‘Earth’ days, with temperatures plunging to as low as minus 180-degrees Celsius,” Dr Mardus-Hall said.

“With no solar power at night-time and no room for large, heavy batteries, nuclear technology could be a key to ensure success.”

nandin (meaning look ahead in the local Dharawal language) was created in 2018 to connect industry, deep tech startups, entrepreneurs and graduate students, to create a supportive network for innovation.

Dr Robert Mardus-Hall, and Andrew Pastrello were two ANSTO FutureNow Scholarship recipients, when they signed onto nandin with their concept.

Through nandin and the support from the NSW Government, they were able to develop their vision to the point where Ouranos Systems is now a founding contributor to Australia’s mission to space.

“We came to ANSTO with an idea. Thanks to the resources, support and expertise offered – we’ve been able to see our idea flourish into a company supporting an exciting emerging industry within Australia,” Dr Mardus-Hall said.

“Nuclear technology may be a key component in the future exploration of space, and we are so grateful to have the opportunity to be a part of it,” Dr Mardus-Hall said.

ANSTO Director for Innovation & Commercialisation, Professor Tim Boyle, said as home to Australia’s nuclear expertise, ANSTO can make a mission critical contribution to the space program’s success.

Professor Boyle points to nandin – ANSTO’s innovation centre – as a key to unlocking our space potential, by giving small startups and engineers access to nuclear technology.

“The level of trust and responsibility being placed in Australian innovators shows the faith the government and scientific community has in the partnership model at nandin,” Professor Boyle said.

“Two young graduates came to ANSTO seeking knowledge, now they’ve founded a company that’s developing nuclear technology for the nation’s space program,” said Professor Boyle.

“I can think of no better example of the success of ANSTO’s graduate program or Innovation Centre.”

ANSTO Reactor Heat Transfer Specialist Dr Mark Ho said that the ‘space heater’ will become a key component of many instruments that Australia sends into space.

“In Space Exploration, every component is critical to success, from the space capsule down to the smallest check light – If one thing fails, the entire mission can fail,” Dr Ho said.

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