4 mins read 22 Jun 2020

Funding awarded to WA Space Robotics and Data Analysis projects

Australian Government grants funding to two Western Australian space-industry projects opening the door to space robotics and a state-of-the-art space data analysis facility.

The petascale supercomputer 'MAGNUS'. Credit: Pawsey Supercomputing Centre.

The Australian Federal Government, along with the Western Australian (WA) State Government, have approved a large-scale funding package to go towards two major space-related projects in WA, building the Australian Space Robotics, Automation, and AI Command Control Complex (RAAICC) and establishing the Australian Space Data Analysis Facility (ASDAF), at the Pawsey Supercomputing Centre.

$4.5 million will be distributed to Fugro Australia Marine for the development of the RAAICC, whilst the Pawsey Supercomputer Centre will receive the remainder of federal funding to develop and implement the ASDAF. Both projects are based in Perth, adding to the growing space-related infrastructure already existing or in development on Australia’s west coast.

Federal Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Karen Andrews said the projects are part of the $19.5 million Space Infrastructure Fund and will support local job creation, research and development.

“Both these projects highlight the fact that space is about so much more than the excitement of launch, it’s about developing technological capability which can drive growth across a range of industries,” Minister Andrews said.

“These investments will not only strengthen our place in the global space sector – it has flow-on effects for mining, agriculture, emergency services and maritime surveillance.

“It’s a win-win. We’re building on the capabilities that make Australian businesses a desirable partner for space projects around the world, as well as growing the industries that we have a natural advantage in like mining and agriculture.”

WA Science Minister Dave Kelly said the McGowan Government’s investment in these centres will help grow the State’s space industry. It will unlock new opportunities for WA businesses and academia to access global space supply chains and participate in international space initiatives such as NASA's Moon to Mars mission.

The WA Government is boosting the funding in both projects by committing a further $3.5 million to the RAAICC, building upon the Memorandum of Understanding that the WA Government has established with the Australian Space Agency.

“The RAAICCC will support the WA headquartered AROSE to capitalise on the State’s world-leading remote operations for use on-Earth and to adapt it for remote operations on the Moon, Mars and beyond,” Minister Kelly said.

Furthermore, the ASDAF will also receive a $750,000 boost from the WA Government to establish the national space data analysis facility.

“The Space Data Analysis Facility will support business across a range of sectors to develop new products and services and help improve productivity and innovation across key WA industries,” Minister Kelly said.

Mark Stickells, Pawsey’s Executive Director, acknowledged the support of both Federal and State governments to launch the ASDAF, from the Australian Space Agency’s Space Infrastructure Fund.

“Pawsey has a long history of collaboration and engagement across industry sectors and research domains, powered by leading technology and expertise. Working with the Australian Space Agency is a tremendous opportunity to build upon this history and unlock the value in the data-intensive operations that support the Australian space industry,” said Mr Stickells.

Through increased commercialisation of space-data analysis, the new facility aims to connect both national and state-based resources to provide data-driven solutions that can be applied to farmers, supporting emergency services and management of droughts and other natural disasters.

The Pawsey Supercomputing Centre in Perth is an unincorporated joint venture between Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO, and Western Australia’s four public universities supported by the WA and Federal governments. CSIRO manages Pawsey as a national research facility available to the broader scientific community.

Both projects are expected to boost WA’s growing state-based space infrastructure and increase the number of people working within the Australian space industry, in line with the objectives as set out by the Australian Space Agency.