5 mins read 18 Jun 2020

Australian Companies Awarded $11M in Space Grants

Australian Government awards space industry with $11 million in grant funding, under the International Space Investment Initiative. 

A number of Australian space projects have received a major funding boost from the Australian Government, receiving grants to boost businesses and jobs across the space community. A total of $11 million has been awarded to 10 projects in hopes to grow Australia’s space sector whilst also contributing to the nation’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

These grant packages are a part of the Australian government’s International Space Investment Initiative which was announced in October 2019, aiming to help stimulate growth of the space sector by providing $15 million to strategic space industry projects.

One of the goals of this initiative is to work towards tripling the size of the Australian space sector and creating 20,000 jobs by 2030. These particular grant packages, called the Expand Capability Grants, were valued up to $4 million, and were open for application between 5 November and 17 December 2019. 

The Head of the Australian Space Agency, Dr. Megan Clark AC, commented on the importance of Australia developing highly advanced technology, such as that showcased in the projects chosen for these grants. 

“These outstanding projects demonstrate the breadth and quality that our small and medium-sized companies and researchers have to offer, from space suits to advanced chip manufacturing,” she said.

Boosting Australian Businesses

The grants will also be used to help bolster the Australian economy after the devastating effects of COVID-19, during the 2020 global pandemic - which saw a lot of Australian supply chains slow down, impacting the space community. 

The Minister for Industry, Science and Technology, Karen Andrews, has stated, “The space industry is a key growth sector that will form an important part of our economic recovery and help us emerge from the COVID-19 crisis stronger than ever”. She further said, “Investment in the space sector not only supports the creation of high tech jobs here in Australia, but also develops technologies that can support other areas of competitive advantage for our nation including agriculture and mining”.

Dr. Clark also emphasises the importance of Australian participation in the emerging space industry, “These projects will demonstrate that Australia is not content to just catch up with other nations but can be a leader in space innovation on the world stage. We are proud to support Australia’s emerging space sector and do our part in helping Australia recover from COVID-19”. 

The Growing Space Sector

The Silentium Defence MAVERICK-S series passive radar system. Credit: Silentium Defence.

One of the businesses to receive this grant is Silentium Defence Trading, which received $1,460,541 to build an international multi-sensor observatory in remote South Australia to improve detection, tracking, and monitoring of space objects in low-earth orbits using their MAVERICK-S series passive radar system. This observatory will be the first of its kind in the southern hemisphere, and its data will be combined with that from the northern hemisphere by the Swedish Space Corporation to assist with more effective tracking across a wider arc of space. For this project, Silentium has partnered with Western Sydney University, with works on the observatory commencing in September this year and first data collection forecast by July 2021.

The logo for the Human Aerospace Company. Credit: Human Aerospace.

Another exciting opportunity that will receive funding from this grant, and is related to the emerging field of space medicine, is the project from Human Aerospace. This company specialises in the human element of space, focusing on aerospace medicine, bioastronautics, life sciences, and aeronautical engineering. Founded by Dr. James Waldie and Dr. Gordon Cable, this company aims to ensure that technologies developed from space exploration offer terrestrial benefits. Human Aerospace has been given a grant of $884,236 to create a spacesuit that eases bone loss and other negative health side effects of microgravity (weightlessness) during extended space missions. 

An artist’s impression of the SpIRIT CubeSat. Credit: University of Melbourne.

A final example of one of the 10 companies awarded a grant is the University of Melbourne. Science and engineering researchers at this university will be using their awarded $3,955,223 to develop and build their SpIRIT (Space Industry Responsive Intelligent Thermal) CubeSat, an innovative nano satellite which will be the first Australian-made spacecraft to host a foreign space agency payload. This shoebox-sized satellite will aim to be launched by 2022 in collaboration with the Italian Space Agency. 

The University of Melbourne will also partner with several key Australian space companies, including SITEAL Australia, which will help ensure the successful flight mission of SpIRIT by delivering systems engineering, integration, and satellite testing. This industrial partner, headquartered in Italy, designs, tests, and manufactures satellites for a wide array of missions.  Executive Director and General Manager of SITEAL Australia, Mark Ramsay, commented, “The SpIRIT project will further bring together already close friends in Australia and Italy, and in particular deliver cooperation in the Space domain”. 

Mr. Ramsay went on to further say, “The SpIRIT project team demonstrates the increasing capability and success of the Australian Space industry partners, and we are pleased to be working with such a capable team. Building a local industrial capability in the space domain is critical to deliver against national space priorities, and equally delivers on employment growth in this high technology sector”.

Further Information

The above examples showcase some of the projects being sponsored by the Australian government through the International Space Investment initiative to help bolster the economy and encourage growth in the space sector. For the full listing of all projects granted funding under this initiative, see the link below.

Review all projects awarded grants.