Australian lunar rover projects just secured $8 million in federal funding

    Two Australian aerospace startups will each receive $4 million in grants from the federal government as part of its Moon to Mars Trailblazer initiative to design semi-autonomous rovers to land on the moon.

    The Perth-based Australian Remote Operations for Space and Earth (AROSE) Consortium and the EPE and Lunar Outpost Oceania Consortium will each receive $4 million to develop their early lunar prototypes as part of Phase 1 of the Trailblazer program of the Australian Space Agency.

    The rover, due for launch by 2026, is part of NASA’s Moon to Mars mission, which will be an important step toward a sustainable human presence on the moon and in support of future missions to Mars.

    The announcement was made when NASA Administrator Senator Bill Nelson visited Australia and the agency this week.

    The AROSE consortium involves two companies: Fugro, makers of the Australian Space Automation, AI & Robotics Control Complex (SpAARC); and Nova Systems, an Australian engineering services and technology solutions company.

    AROSE currently has 15 members with established space and resource capabilities, including major mining and energy companies, universities and leading service providers. Woodside Energy and Rio Tinto are also supporting the AROSE Trailblazer Stage 1 alongside the Western Australian Government.

    AROSE CEO Leanne Cunnold said Australia has leading expertise in managing remote operations and robotics in complex and hazardous environments.

    “AROSE is a partner-driven organization with a clear vision to attract the best talent and technology to support local and international space missions,” she said.

    “The ripple effect of projects like Trailblazer and the overall benefits they can bring to all Australians cannot be overstated. Just as the Apollo mission inspired a generation of aspiring astronauts, Trailblazer has the power to motivate our future space scientists, engineers and technical specialists. They will see Australian smarts, expertise and technologies in action on the moon, demonstrating Australia’s emerging role in space.”

    Federal Minister of Industry and Science Ed Husic said the Trailblazer program will help develop Australia’s robotics and automation capability, in line with the development of the government’s National Robotics Strategy.

    “It is exciting that with this announcement, Administrator Nelson will witness firsthand the extensive knowledge and capability in our aerospace industry, as well as broader robotics and automation,” he said.

    “From those selected to be part of the Trailblazer program, to other industry success stories and our impressive universities and research organisations, Australia has a lot to be proud of.

    “Programs like Trailblazer are important to the growth of our aerospace industry, as is our expertise in robotics and automation. It also plays an important role in inspiring more young Australians to consider a STEM career,” said Minister Husic.

    The rover will collect lunar soil, known as regolith, from the moon and deliver it to a NASA payload, which will attempt to extract oxygen from the sample. It is seen as a critical step in supporting a sustainable human presence on the moon, Mars and beyond.

    The second consortium of US-based Lunar Outpost, which specializes in commercial planetary mobility, and Queensland-based EPE, a 25-year veteran of research and defense robotics and autonomous systems, will also focus on the design and development of a lunar rover.

    Lunar Outpost has established a local subsidiary for the project, Melbourne-based Lunar Outpost Oceania (LOOC). LOOC will leverage knowledge from past space missions where the parent company has been involved in building local Australian expertise.

    Lunar Outpost team

    The announcement of federal funding for the lunar rover mission was Ben Sorensen, EPE Director of Innovation & Commercialization; Enrico Palermo, head of the Australian Space Agency; Senator Bill Nelson, NASA Administrator; Pamela Melroy, Deputy Director of NASA; Dr. Megan Clark AO, Australian Space Agency Chair; Aude Vignelles, CTO Australian Space Agency and Justin Cyrus, founder and CEO of Lunar Outpost.



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