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4 mins read 24 Sep 2021

Boeing & RMIT to research space manufacturing capability

Boeing and RMIT sign an agreement to investigate the development of materials research and process innovation capabilities with the local space industry. 

The WSG-11+, will be added to the US military WSG network in 2024. It is hoped that collaborations with Australian industry will lead to support opportunities within Boeing’s global supply chain. Credit: Boeing

Boeing is expanding its relationship with Melbourne-based university, RMIT with the company continuing to further its commitment to investing in sovereign space capability that will connect RMIT the aerospace manufacturers resources and global networks, with the aim to develop Australian sovereign capabilities critical for commercial production of equipment for spaceflight and off-world exploration.

“Australia’s burgeoning space sector requires the production of complex, low volume, bespoke components not suited to conventional manufacturing techniques,” said Boeing Defence Australia director of Aerospace Engineering and Production, Paul Watson. 

“This partnership will develop new knowledge in advanced manufacturing technologies which will not only stimulate the development of a local fabrication capability but will also expose Australian industry to space export markets as part of Boeing’s global supply chain.”

According to program manager Kathryn Burr, the program provides an exceptional opportunity for Boeing to work with academia and Australian SMEs to build a strong sovereign space manufacturing capability, and to build capacity into the global supply chain for space programs.

Working Together to Build Space Capability

RMIT University is a world leader in the development of advanced manufacturing technologies for aerospace. Credit: RMIT

Boeing already has a longstanding relationship with RMIT, who earlier this year announced they would be developing a space industry hub. The research and development as part of this agreement will be undertaken within the hub, which is a launchpad and industrial solutions incubator dedicated to growing Australia’s space sector. 

“Our ultimate goal is to maximise opportunities for commercialisation of the products that we co-develop with Boeing,” said RMIT Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research and Innovation, Professor Calum Drummond AO.

“This is a pioneering project which provides a tangible pathway for Australian businesses to upskill, innovate and export globally as manufacturers of products for space applications. Leveraging Boeing and RMIT’s joint expertise and facilities, we believe we can unlock boundless future opportunities for Australian industry,” Professor Drummond added. 

Boeing will look to leverage the knowledge that has been developed through this relationship which has contributed significantly to Australia’s aerospace manufacturing capability through innovation in undergraduate education, postgraduate research and collaborative research projects. 

“Space, both defence and commercial, is a huge growth area across the globe. It is important that Australian companies have the skills and capabilities to be able to participate in this area,” said Burr about the opportunities within the Australian space industry. 

Boeing’s significant space experience have helped them to develop a network of in-country research and development capabilities and partnerships with government, industry and academia.

“The Australian government has clear roadmaps for each of its National Manufacturing Priorities and Boeing is committed to supporting achievement of those objectives,” added Burr.

Supporting the Local Space Industry

Dr Shannon Walker, one of the astronauts of the expedition 64 crew touches the samples of the virus beating coating developed by Boeing and UQ on board the ISS. Credit NASA.

Boeing is continuing to extend their commitment to the local space industry with this announcement being one of a number this year. The company, which this year, have committed to working with Hypersonix to develop a hypersonic launch vehicle and worked with UQ to develop a virus beating surface coating for space applications, are also putting forward a  proposal for the defence satellite communications project, JP9102. 

In 2019, Boeing signed a statement of intent with the Australian Space Agency to commit to investing in R&D, innovation, STEM education and government initiatives. The agreement focussed on the key areas of Space Situational Awareness, Space Manufacturing and Materials, On-Orbit Image Processing, Space Launch and Hypersonics, Remote Spacecraft Operation, Antimicrobial Surfaces for Space Systems and Space VR/AR simulation, hoped to grow new areas for collaboration and support.  

The aerospace giant believes that the university sector plays a key role in the broader space ecosystem by preparing industry-ready talent pipelines based on the current and future needs of students and industry alike and creating new knowledge and intellectual capital needed for the industry to succeed within a competitive, global economy. 

Boeing also offers a number of scholarships across the university sector, including scholarships to support women into STEM careers. In 2021 RMIT awarded four Boeing funded scholarships, including one supporting a female in an engineering program. 

Boeing hopes that programs like these will support a healthy innovation and commercialisation landscape for the advancement and growth of the Australian space industry, through innovative deployment of advanced manufacturing technologies. In turn, this will create new knowledge and intellectual capital needed for the industry to succeed within a competitive, global economy, leading to new Australian companies having the skills and capabilities to be able to participate in the industry.