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3 mins read 15 Feb 2022

ANU Constructing Space Radiation Testing Infrastructure

A new beamline being constructed for the Heavy Ion Accelerator Facility will be able to test the space radiation conditions on Australian satellites. 

Part of the Heavy Ion Accelerator. Credit: ANU.

The Heavy Ion Accelerator Facility (HIAF) at the Australian National University (ANU) is having a new beamline constructed, and it's set to play a big role in the expansion of Australia’s space industry capabilities. The new beamline is specifically being constructed to be used to test the effects of space radiation on satellites. Radiation is a major hazard in spaceflight which can cause performance degradation and catastrophic failures. 

“Radiation hardening, testing, and understanding the mechanisms that cause adverse effects are a critical consideration when developing resilient satellites and successful missions,” Dr Carter, from the Nuclear Physics and Accelerator Applications Department of the ANU Research School of Physics, said.

“There is variability in the space environment – it is not only how long you are in space; it matters where you go, too.  

“We’re designing profoundly specialised infrastructure that can accommodate a vast range of potential users’ needs. 

“We will need a large versatile irradiation chamber that can hold devices or samples of variable shapes and sizes and can rapidly move parts of them into the beam when required.”

This new beamline will be a big step for Australia as the kind of testing that it will be used for is normally conducted overseas. However, bringing this testing capability to Australia will give the nation greater control over its satellite supply chain. 

Funding for this new beamline came from a $2.5 million grant awarded by the Australian Space Agency through the federal government’s Space Infrastructure Fund. The aim of the funding is to establish a National Space Qualification Network (NSQN) offering end-to-end payload testing services to Australian manufacturers.  

“For Australia to build and operate spacecraft and payloads that are resilient to the space environment, we need a sovereign ability to boost mission assurance and the NSQN delivers that,” Dr Carter said.

“It will be a beacon of hope for the nation, enabling impact for our emerging space industry.”

Professor Mahananda Dasgupta, Director of the HIAF said the ability to quickly develop such a high-quality ion-beam for testing hinges on the accelerator’s unique capabilities.

“This $100M facility is the highest energy ion accelerator in Australia, and together with our partners in the newly-formed NSQN, we will act as a springboard to propel the Australian space industry to the next level.”

“The long-term partnership between ANU and the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS) has ensured that HIAF is a state-of-the-art facility that can be leveraged quickly for the burgeoning Australian space industry.”

“It expands on HIAFs astounding five-decade strong track record of enabling globally recognised top-tier discoveries in fundamental nuclear physics.”