Tag Archives: Australian space

space mining

UNSW team exploring mining water on the moon

Image credit: UNSW.
In an announcement on 7 February at the SIAA Space Industry Forum discussing Australia’s role in the Moon Treaty at UNSW, the group outlined steps to put together a multi-university, agency and industry project team to investigate the possibilities of mining on the moon. They also intend to address how that would work under the United Nations’ Moon Treaty. 
 
Professor Andrew Dempster, Director of the Australian Centre for Space Engineering Research at UNSW, believes that Australia is uniquely placed to carve itself a niche in the global space industry by exploiting its position of strength in mining expertise.  
 
“Australia has a natural advantage for off-Earth mining – we have some of the very best mining research, technology and automation tools in the world, and the largest mining companies,” he said. 
 
“While overseas teams have been looking at solving some of the problems behind space mining, our project wants to examine how we could actually get this done, firstly from a practical engineering point of view, but also closing a viable business case.” 
 
The global space industry is expected to grow to A$1 trillion over the next 20 years and Professor Dempster says Australia needs to engage with the space agenda now to secure its ability to compete in this market in the future. 
 
“What we need to do is reduce the perceived risk to potential investors, including large mining companies, in a space mining venture,” he said. 
 
The major deterrent for industry involvement is a lack of understanding of the economics associated with this type of project and the perceived investment risk profile of mining in space.  
 
Professor Dempster, who is working with UNSW mining expert Professor Serkan Saydam, has a goal of reducing the perceived risk of off-Earth mining and offering credible evidence that mining water from the moon can be commercially viable. The hope is to be able to show that it is possible to create the machinery, mining methods, energy resources and communications required to do it.  To that end, they will only consider those options that are most likely to produce positive investment returns. 
 
The best-known commercial application of extracting lunar water is in making rocket fuel. The components of water are hydrogen and oxygen and these can be used to power rockets.  
 
Making rocket fuel out of the water on the moon could significantly cut down on the cost of carrying out space missions. Now, rockets leaving Earth must carry all the fuel they need, which comes at an enormous cost. If rockets could potentially refuel once in space, they could reach distant locations for a lot less money. 
 
Speaking about the project, UNSW Dean of Engineering Mark Hoffman said: “Australia needs to invest in disruptive, innovative technologies to tackle some of our planet’s big challenges and to create new and exciting opportunities for economic growth. 
 
“Projects such as this one will help deepen Australia’s expertise in off-Earth mining and facilitate the growth of the space industry in Australia.” 
 
Professor Dempster said that given sufficient funding, he and his team may be just five to 10 years away from piloting a water mining “proof of concept” operation on the moon.  
 
“Once we prove that the technology exists and major risks can be mitigated, I expect that mining companies will see the commercial potential for this sort of venture and put some dollars towards making it a reality,” he said. 
 
Professor Dempster says that it is likely that we are still decades away from commercial mining operations being established on the moon. 
This article was originally published by UNSW.
space industry

Australia, France join to build space industry capability

Both agencies have entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to develop their respective space programs. The Minister for Industry, Science and Technology, Karen Andrews, welcomed the agreement signed on 1 September by the Head of the Australian Space Agency, Dr Megan Clark AC, and Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales (CNES) President, Dr Jean-Yves Le Gall.

The agreement will help both countries join forces to develop their space capabilities, particularly in the areas of space operations, space science, Earth observation, positioning system and communications.

“This strategic association between the Australian and French governments’ space agencies will help our nations’ universities, research institutions, businesses and communities work together across a range of fields,” Minister Andrews said.

“It builds on an existing track record of cooperation between CNES and Australia, and allows both countries to embark on an ambitious partnership,” she said.

The first steps are already underway, with CNES partnering with UNSW Canberra Space for the development of the Australian National Concurrent Design Facility (ANCDF) for the development of world class space missions, and for studies towards the development of satellite technologies with advanced sensors and on-board processing and intelligence.

This facility will fast-track Australia’s ability to deliver world-class space technology, provide a boost to economic growth and jobs in Australia, and support future joint missions.

Dr Clark said the signing of the agreement represented the start of the Australian Space Agency’s journey with fellow spacefaring nations.

“Civil space engagement initiatives like this with the French Space Agency will explore advanced space technology and applications used in earth observation and remote sensing with high-altitude balloons and satellites, space operations and joint missions,” Dr Clark said.

CNES President Jean-Yves Le Gall also welcomed the agreement.

“Today CNES proudly becomes the Australian Space Agency’s very first international partner. Australia’s amazing ramp-up shows the now crucial importance of space for our economies. The joint projects coming out of today’s agreement will ultimately bring growth and jobs both in Australia and in France.”

Media release from the Hon Karen Andrews MP.