4 mins read 11 Jan 2021

Australian Lunar Exploration Mission Unveiled by Fleet Space Technologies

Fleet Space Technologies has announced an Australian Lunar Exploration Mission: The Seven Sisters Program.

Credit: Seven Sisters.

Australian satellite start-up company Fleet Space Technologies has announced an Australian lunar exploration mission using nanosatellites and sensors, called the Seven Sisters Program. This satellite mission is set to compliment the NASA Artemis Program to land the first woman and next man on the moon by the middle of this decade. The Seven Sisters Mission was unveiled after a year in stealth mode, and is led by a consortium of world-class space companies, including Fleet Space Technologies, OZ Minerals, University of Adelaide, UNSW, Unearthed, Tyvak Australia and Fugro. 

“We are thrilled to launch our mission utilising the best of Australia’s capabilities.” Fleet Space CEO, Flavia Tata Nardini says. “It is critical that Australia supports NASA’s Artemis Program with high-maturity systems. Our satellites are already in space and our consortium members have proven capabilities in the most demanding environments on Earth. We are ready!”

The Seven Sisters: an Australian Story

The constellation of Pleiades, also known as the Seven Sisters. Credit: Marco Lorenzi.

The Seven Sisters Program is named after the star cluster, the Seven Sisters, also known as the Pleiades. This star cluster features prominently in Australian Aboriginal story-telling, with several different songlines and lore from across Australia. The general story follows a group of seven sisters who are pursued across the land by men, and eventually escape to the sky where they became stars. In some versions, a man chased the sisters into the sky, and became the constellation of Orion. 

For instance, originating from what is now central New South Wales, Wiradjuri dreamtime stories tell of Baiami, a creation ancestor represented by the constellation of Orion, pursuing the Seven Sisters into the sky. In Wiradjuri, the Seven Sisters are known as Mulayndynang, 

Another example is found with the Wirangu peoples from the coast of now-named South Australia. The Seven Sisters, known as Yugarilya, chased a snake called Dyunu. Tgilby, the hunter and constellation of Orion, fell in love with the Yugarilya and chased them down to Earth as they chased the snake. 

These two stories are only two of many that have been passed down through oral and performative traditions across almost all of Australia. 

The Seven Sisters Program

The Moon, the objective of the Seven Sisters Mission. Credit: NASA.

The goal of the Seven Sisters Program is to develop new resource and exploration techniques for Earth, the Moon and Mars, which will help NASA find viable deposits of water and other resources more efficiently. This technology will both be used on the lunar surface for the Artemis mission, and also on Earth for terrestrial exploration in resources industries. 

“Australia is a world leader in mining engineering research and automation. It has the largest resources companies and it makes a lot of sense for our young space industry to concentrate on an area of Australian strength. The SEVEN SISTERS mission offers a real opportunity to leverage strong Australian technology to promote human endeavours on the moon.” said Professor Andrew Dempster, Director of the Australian Centre for Space Engineering Research (ACSER).

Topographic maps of the moon. Credit: USGS.

Another goal of the Seven Sisters Program is to cement Australia’s standing as a specialist leader in space technologies by 2030. 

“This is the space race Australia can win. Ultimately we are seeking footholds on these new worlds,” says Seven Sisters Mission Director Matt Pearson. “In-situ resource utilisation is key to having permanent bases on the Moon, Mars and beyond.”

With Fleet Space’s Centauri constellation already operating in Low Earth Orbit and the first generation of prototype probes being deployed and tested this summer, the mission is already proving hardware and space systems for future use on the Moon and Mars.

Fleet Space Technologies

Fleet Space Technologies is a South Australian company founded in 2015. Their specialisation rests in the manufacture of low-cost nanosatellites which work in tandem with the Internet of Things (IoT), a network of wirelessly connected devices which provides information to an end-user. The grand goal, according to the Fleet Space CEO, is to start mass-producing nano satellites, and to eventually have 100 Fleet satellites in orbit by launching up to ten at a time. 

Recently, Fleet Space received a grant from the South Australian Government to optimise mining exploration with Oz Minerals. 

This news of the Seven Sisters Lunar Mission comes after the recent announcement of Australia’s first sovereign-developed mission to the moon.