4 mins read 14 Mar 2023

First Projects to Fly in the Australian Astronaut Program Announced

Saber Astronautics has announced the first set of projects that will fly to the International Space Station as part of its Australian Astronaut Program.

Concept drawing of the Axiom Space Station, that Saber’s Australian Astronauts will fly on in the future. Credit: Saber Astronautics.

Australian space industry company, Saber Astronautics, has announced four projects to be further developed at the International Space Station (ISS) as part of their Australian Astronaut Program. The Australian Astronaut Program will bring both industry and researchers into the spaceflight community, and allow them to benefit from conducting research aboard the ISS.

The projects chosen for further development on board the ISS are from a wide range of fields, covering health, food production, and future sustainable space access. Saber  Astronautics accepted the chosen projects based on their manufacturing potential and longer-term capabilities.

Growing Crops in Space

The ARC Centre of Excellents for Plants for Space (P4S) in collaboration with Professor Matthew Gilliham and Associate Professor Jenny Mortimer from the University of Adelaide are developing crops that will be sustainable and productive in space. This project will test the growth of new space crops in the challenging conditions of the ISS. By attempting to grow plants in space, P4S and UoA researchers hope to be able to use plants for on-demand food and pharmaceutical production, which will have benefits on Earth as well as in space.

Effects of Space on Mice Embryos, Eggs, and Sperm

Researchers from IVF Australia, Virtus Health, 23strands, the University of Melbourne, and the University of Technology Sydney are collaborating to investigate the possible impacts of space radiation and microgravity on frozen mice embryos, eggs, and sperm. This project will aid the development of new systems for stable long-term storage of embryos, eggs, and sperm. Understanding how to store these biological samples will have applications both for undergoing fertility treatments on Earth and for the future of human space exploration to distant planets.

Repairing Space Objects

TITOMIC Pty Ltd, a NSW engineering company, is developing a method to repair solid state metals, which will be crucial for the long-term, sustainable repair of large objects in space. TITOMIC’s project will develop and test a self-contained, miniaturised cold spray device that can be used in on-orbit solid state metal repairs.

Vostok Space Beer

Saber Astronautics and 4-Pines Brewing are collaborating to bring the first beer in the world that can be consumed in space. This project will create a beer that smells and tastes the same in space, while also considering the difference in alcohol absorption by the human body in space. Vostok Space Beer will also create a space bottle that allows the beer to be drunk in zero gravity.

“We are impressed by the innovation and creativity in the proposals and are excited to see the potential they can have on the future of space exploration and on Earth. There are more projects signing up and we want to give the best opportunity for industry to make the most of this exciting opportunity,” said Dr Jason Held, CEO of Saber. 

The teams of the chosen projects will participate in a series of workshops at Wolfpack Space Hub, starting in February, to get flight-ready for Axiom’s 2024 and 2025 flights to the ISS.

Saber’s Australian Astronaut Program is part of a recent push for commercially funded astronauts and allows projects to access the laboratory aboard the ISS. The ISS offers unique and unparalleled advanced manufacturing and research opportunities.

These successful projects, and future projects, aim to build new products in a diverse range of industries and research areas, utilising the unique environment of space. Saber is planning additional project proposal rounds and workshops, to be held on a bi-annual basis.