4 mins read 02 Jul 2021

$3.7 million in Moon to Mars grants

The Australian Space Agency has awarded $3.7 million in grants to 20 organisations as part of the Moon to Mars initiative. The feasibility testing grants will help transform concepts into technology for future NASA Moon to Mars missions.

Valiant Space received a $200,000 grant from the Australian Space Agency to develop their non-toxic thruster to space readiness. An artists impression of the Skykraft satellite in space. Credit: Skykraft

The Australian Space Agency has announced more multi-million dollar funding to the space industry, this time in the form of Moon to Mars Demonstrator Feasibility Grants, as part of the $150 million Moon to Mars initiative.

$3.7 million dollars in funding was awarded to 20 organisations across Australia, who demonstrated clear potential to support future NASA Moon to Mars activities. The organisations are a mix of universities and private companies as well as collaborations between multiple organisations. 

The grants of up to $200,000 are to conduct feasibility testing which could help transform a concept into a viable space product or service bound for future Moon to Mars missions. 

Head of the Australian Space Agency Enrico Palermo said the Demonstrator Feasibility grant recipients highlighted the breadth, depth and excellence of skills in the Australian civil space sector. 

“The projects funded are leading examples of Australia’s capabilities in developing space technologies, which will only continue to grow and expand into the future,” Mr Palermo said.

“Strengthening national capability is one of the key pillars in the Australian Civil Space Strategy and is central to our mission to triple the size of the Australian civil space sector and create up to 20,000 additional jobs by 2030.” 

Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Christian Porter said that growing Australia’s space manufacturing sector was a key priority for the Morrison Government.

“These grants are part of the Morrison Government’s flagship space program - the $150 million Moon to Mars initiative - which is providing pathways for Australian organisations to play an important part in NASA’s plans to return to the Moon and go beyond to Mars,” Minister Porter said. 

“The initiative will also support the transformation of high-value manufacturing industries across our economy, fast-track the growth of the national civil space sector and create high-skilled jobs.”

Under the $150 million Moon to Mars initiative, the Demonstrator Feasibility grants are the first of two components of the Demonstrator program. The second component, the Demonstrator Mission grants will support projects launching Australian products and services to space. These grant guidelines are expected to open later in 2021. 

Grant recipients

As part of the Artemis program, NASA will land the first woman and first person of color on the Moon in 2024 using innovative technologies to explore more of the lunar surface than ever before. Credit: NASA

The Moon to Mars initiative is part of more than $700 million being invested by the Australian Government in the Australian civil space sector since the establishment of the Australian Space Agency in 2018.

There are three major grant-funded programs in the initiative – the Supply Chain Program, the Demonstrator Program and the Trailblazer program.

The grants of up to $200,000 were awarded to 20 organisations under the first phase of the Demonstrator Feasibility Grants including:  

  • $200,000 to the University of Southern Queensland for crop monitoring system in space

  • $200,000 to Valiant Space for a non-toxic in-space thruster

  • $200,000 to Australian Remote Operations for Space And Earth Ltd for a Rover Feasibility Study to investigate and formulate an end-to-end mission concept, aligning architecture, governance and strategy with NASA’s Artemis mission. 

  • $199,756 to Thales Australia partnering with the International Centre for Neuromorphic Systems (ICNS) at the Western Sydney University for event-based vision sensors servicing the Artemis Spacecraft.

  • $200,000 to Curtin University for a lunar orbiter mission, Binar Prospector, that targets the resource potential of the Moon. The Binar Prospector Mission will consist of 2+ 6U CubeSats flying at low altitude and using novel COTS payloads to deliver high-resolution digital mapping for ISRU exploration of the Moon.

  • $200,000 to Australian Remote Operations For Space And Earth for an Australian operated Lunar Construction Rover and Stage 1 Mission scope.

  • $200,000 to the Australian National University for an Australian Deep Space Optical Communications Ground Station. The project will prototype and test a deep-space optical communications ground instrument compatible with NASA’s Optical to Orion (O2O) mission.

  • $199,506 to the University of Adelaide for investigation formation flying of CubeSats through precision proximity control via optical ranging techniques, leveraging technology from optical communications.

See the full list of Moon to Mars Initiative Demonstrator Feasibility Grants recipients