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Australia steps closer to building Moon rover

Australia is one step closer to the Moon with the Federal Government’s announcement that the Australian Remote Operations for Space and Earth (AROSE) consortium is one of two successful teams chosen for Stage 1 of the Australian Space Agency’s flagship Trailblazer program.

The Trailblazer program will see Australia design, build, test, and operate an Australian-made lunar foundation services rover for NASA’s return to the surface of the Moon.

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.

The Trailblazer program requires the rover to be operated remotely to collect lunar soil and deliver it to a NASA-provided processing facility to extract oxygen.

This is a critical step to supporting a sustainable human presence on the Moon, Mars and beyond.

AROSE’s Trailblazer Stage 1 consortium is led by two amazing companies:

  • Fugro, creators 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.

Leanne Cunnold, AROSE CEO, says: “AROSE was created to help secure Australia’s role in the international space sector, and to drive knowledge from space to ground and ground to space.

“Australia has world-leading expertise in managing remote operations and robotics in complex and hazardous environments, making us an ideal partner for developing critical space technologies.

“AROSE is a partner-driven organisation with a clear vision to attract the best talent and technology to support local and international space missions.

“The ripple effect of projects like Trailblazer and the overall benefits they can bring to all Australians cannot be overestimated.

“Just as the Apollo mission inspired a generation of aspiring astronauts, Trailblazer has the power to motivate our future space scientists, engineers and tech specialists.

“They will see Australian smarts, expertise and technologies in action on the Moon, demonstrating Australia’s emerging role in space.”

David Flanagan, AROSE Chair, says: “Trailblazer provides Australia with a once in a generation opportunity to stimulate our sovereign space industry, create jobs in Australia and support the growth of industries.

“It will provide access to international supply chains, build space technology capability, grow skills, and create interest in STEM and related careers.

“Space technologies and capabilities will increasingly become a critical driver of Australian exports, jobs and economic competitiveness.

“What we learn in space will bring significant advancements across many sectors including resources, agriculture, health, manufacturing and utilities.”

Sam Forbes, Fugro director SpAARC, says: “Collaborating with NASA, the Australian Space Agency, and the AROSE consortium, this is an incredible mission, which will put Australia’s first rover on the Moon and demonstrate Australia’s capability to play a significant role in the emerging space sector.”

Adam Smith, Nova Systems Australia and New Zealand managing director, says: “For the space industry, this Trailblazer announcement adds further momentum and investment to Australia’s space sector.

“Nova Systems continues to invest in growing space in Australia. We’re excited to deliver our experience in space systems engineering, mission assurance and design expertise to the Moon to Mars initiative.

“Programs like this help companies like ours retain vital skills and talent within Australia.”

This project received grant funding from the Australian Government, administered through the Australian Space Agency.

Trailblazer Stage 1 provides up to $4 million for two successful applicants to design foundation services rover solutions, through early mission phases to Preliminary Design Review.

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