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Two consortia win Moon to Mars Trailblazer grants

Artist’s impression of the AROSE consortium lunar rover Image: AROSE

The Department of Industry Science and Resources has announced Stage 1 grants for two successful Australian consortia to develop lunar rovers under the Australian Space Agency’s Moon to Mars Trailblazer initiative.

The AROSE (Australian Remote Operations in Space and on Earth) consortium and the EPE and Lunar Outpost Oceania consortium will each receive $4 million to design early-stage prototypes of a semi-autonomous rover for NASA’s return to the surface of the Moon, as part of stage one of the Trailblazer program.

NASA has asked Australia to provide the lunar rover due to our world-leading expertise in remote operations and automation technology, developed through our resources industry.

“Drawing on Australia’s world leading remote operations, the rover will collect lunar soil, known as regolith, and deliver it to a NASA payload, which will attempt to extract oxygen from the sample,” said Minister for Industry and Science Ed Husic.

The rover, which aims to launch by 2026, is part of the NASA Moon to Mars mission which will be a major step towards a sustainable human presence on the Moon and supporting future missions to Mars.

The EPE & Lunar Outpost Oceania Consortium includes BHP, Northrop Grumman Australia, RMIT University’s Space Industry Hub and the University of Melbourne’s Space Laboratory. University of Adelaide, Inovor, Australian National University, Element Robotics, Colorado School of Mines and Saber Astronautics will provide specialist contributions, and Australian Industry Collaborators include Titomic, One Giant Leap, VIPAC and CD3D.

The AROSE Trailblazer Stage 1 consortium is led by two companies: Fugro, creator of Australia’s Space Automation, AI & Robotics Control Complex (SpAARC); and

Nova Systems, an Australian-owned engineering services and technology solutions company.

Woodside Energy and Rio Tinto are also supporting the AROSE Trailblazer Stage 1 effort by providing knowledge transfer of their terrestrial robotic and automation capabilities. Additional support has been received from the Western Australian Government

“From those selected to be part of the Trailblazer program, to other industry success stories and our impressive universities and research organisations, Australia has much to be proud of,” said Minister Husic.

“Programs like Trailblazer are important to growing our space sector, as well as our know-how in robotics and automation. It also has an important role to play in inspiring more young Australians to consider STEM careers,” he added.

The Trailblazer program will help further develop Australia’s robotics and automation capability, aligning with the development of the Australian Government’s National Robotics Strategy.

The announcement came during a visit by NASA Administrator Bill Nelson and Deputy Administrator Pamela Melroy in a continuing sign of the close co-operation between Australia and the United States. This is the first visit of a sitting National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Administrator to our shores since 2014.

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