WA space program gets extra $6.5m state funding

By on 8 April, 2022

Artist’s impression of the Binar-1 satellite in orbit. Courtesy Curtin University and Space BD.

In yet another sign of the accelerating ‘space race’ within Australia — where various states and territories seem to be upping the funding ante almost every month — the Western Australian Government has announced a $6.5 million boost for the state’s space sector.

The funding, to be included in the upcoming state budget, will be split between two recipients — $4.5 million over four years for the WA-based AROSE consortium and $2.5 million over four years for Curtin University’s Binar Space Program.

AROSE is a Perth-headquartered, industry-led consortium that aims to transfer technology from the resources industry into the international space sector, with a particular focus on remote operations, including an aim to deploy a remotely controlled lunar rover on the Moon.

The Binar program is already up and running, with the first satellite launched last year. Binar-1 is Western Australia’s first home-grown spacecraft, designed and built by staff and students from Curtin’s Space Science and Technology Centre (SSTC) under a program run in partnership with Fugro and supported by the Australian Remote Operations for Space and Earth (AROSE).

The CubeSat was deployed from the International Space Station in October 2021. Its primary objective is to test all the critical spacecraft systems that will help with missions to the Moon. Two cameras on board Binar-1 will capture images of the WA coastline and relay them back to Earth.

“Binar-1 was coded and built from scratch by SSTC staff and students, but testing its viability is only made possible through our partnership with remote operations specialists, Fugro, and their Space Automation, Artificial Intelligence and Robotics Control Complex (SpAARC) which enables us to test protocols in space,” said SSTC Director and John Curtin Distinguished Professor, Phil Bland.

Professor Bland added that “… Binar-1 puts us on the path to proving that our technology can deliver and sets us up very well to achieve our aim of sending six more satellites into space over the next 18 months, and our ultimate goal of taking WA to the Moon by 2025.”

According to the WA Government, the latest funding will enable Western Australian start-ups and small to medium-sized enterprises to test their technology in space for commercialisation, as well as for training students in the development, testing and operation of spacecraft.

The WA Government has committed almost $16 million over the past two years to boost the WA space sector.

“Space is one of the nine sectors targeted under Diversify WA — the McGowan Government’s economic development framework,” said WA Science Minister, Roger Cook.

“Space is just one of the many exciting industries taking off in WA and it’s important that the WA Government continues to support local space research.

“This announcement is not just a boost in funding but a boost in confidence about WA’s role in the global space sector.”

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