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4 mins read 10 Sep 2020

Australian Space Agency opens Supply Chain Grants to boost local industry

The first stage of the Australian Space Agency's Moon to Mars Initiative has now formally opened, with the Supply Chain Program now underway to assist with NASA's return to Moon and first mission to Mars objectives. 

 

The Supply Chain Capability Improvement Grants will enable existing companies in Australia to take their products and services further. Credit: Creative Commons.

The Australian Space Agency has opened applications for the Supply Chain phase of its 5-year Moon to Mars (M2M) initiative. The initiative is part of a partnership between the Australian Space Agency and NASA, which will benefit both agencies as well as the wider space community.

In September 2019, the Australian Space Agency announced that it would join forces with NASA to support its Artemis program, which aims to have the next human on the moon by 2024 with a longer term view to sending humans to Mars. This new collaboration was a fitting way for the Agency to contribute to a significant human milestone even in its early days.

The Supply Chain stage

Fuelled by an investment of $ 150m over 5 years, and supported by the Australian Prime Minister, the Agency’s M2M initiative started with a consultation period between mid-February and early March, which would help inform the development of the remainder of the program. 

Then, on the 27th of August 2020, the Agency opened its first grant scheme under the M2M initiative: the Supply Chain Capability Improvement Grants. Formally opened by the Minister for Industry, Science and Technology, Karen Andrews, it aims to ‘deliver products and services into domestic and international space supply chains’, and will provide \$25.7m of the \$150m pool over the next 5 years.

Prospective candidates have until June 2023 to make an application for anywhere between \$250 000 and \$1m. The process will be ‘non-competitive’ in nature, meaning that applicants will be vying for funding based on merit, rather than based on comparison with other applicants. 

Alongside the Capability Improvements Grants, the Agency will also offer the Supply Chain Facilitation Program, which will provide $21.5m of support.

The overall aim of the Supply Chain Program is to expand Australian industry capability to support NASA’s endeavours to explore the Moon and Mars. To do this, the program will primarily encourage Australian companies who are already in the domestic or international space supply chain to contribute to Moon to Mars activities. Taking advantage of the strengths and capabilities that Australian individuals and companies already possess will mean there will be less of a need to start from scratch. 

NASA’s new rocket, the Space Launch System (SLS), in its Block 1 crew vehicle configuration that will send astronauts to the Moon on the Artemis missions. Credit: NASA

Campbell Pegg, the Moon to Mars Program manager, is excited about the doors that this first stage will open for companies on home soil, and the Supply Chain stage will do just that.

“It will ‘grow Australian businesses here in Australia so that they can succeed on the international and national supply chains’, while at the same time, contributing to the more global objective of supporting ‘NASA’s endeavours to go back to the Moon and onto Mars,” he says. 

The bigger picture

The Supply Chain Program is the first of three programs under the Moon to Mars initiative. For those companies and visionaries ineligible for the Supply Chain Program, it may be beneficial to keep an ear to the ground for the two programs yet to be announced. The Demonstrator Program, which is set to open before the end of 2020, aims to launch new products and services by enabling new ventures and markets. Finally, the Trailblazer Program, aptly hailed as their ‘flagship program’, will showcase achievements that are novel, Australian-born and world-leading.

Co-benefits for home soil

While the Moon to Mars initiative stems from NASA, there are countless co-benefits of the initiative which the Agency has no doubt recognised. By providing more opportunities for our local companies to support NASA, this first stage of grants will provide a massive boost for the Australian space industry in itself.

As a result, Australia will see increased productivity and expertise as well as more job opportunities and public support within the space sector, making even more of a mark on the world scene.