First space techs awarded ‘Moon to Mars’ grants


Joseph Brookes
Senior Reporter

Two NSW space technology companies have shared $1.1 million in federal funding as part of the first round of the government Moon to Mars Supply Chain Capability Improvement initiative.

The $150 million program announced in August last year aimed to help local SMEs become part the US government’s public-private Moon to Mars space exploration program. The first grants were announced today by Industry Minister Karen Andrews on Wednesday.

“These grants are about expanding and supporting our domestic capabilities in the space sector, while helping Australian companies be part of NASA’s grand ambition to establish a sustainable presence on the Moon to prepare for missions to Mars,” Ms Andrews said in a statement.

Karen Andrews
Moon to Mars: Karen Andrews turns on the tap for the $150m program

“Today’s funding announcement showcases two Aussie companies leading the way in space infrastructure and on-board spacecraft navigation.”

Spiral Blue received $416,2050 to develop its satellite data processing software while partners Advanced Navigation and Q-CTRL received a grant of $690,892 to develop a “world-first inertial navigation system”.

“These grants will help boost investment in the manufacturing sector, build Australia’s reputation as a manufacturer of choice, create new skilled Australian jobs and grow our economy,” said Ms Andrews.

Spiral Blue’s software is used with earth observation satellites to enable data processing on-board the satellite rather than the typical approach of processing the information back on earth.

Advanced Navigation and Q-CTRL is a joint initiative between the respective AI-based navigation hardware firm and the Quantum startup. The two companies have partnered to develop inertial navigation, considered a critical capability in a variety of space missions, where external navigational beacons such as GPS or even landmarks are not available.

Australian Space Agency head Enrico Palermo welcomed the first round of grants.

“The two successful projects showcase the talent and ingenuity in Australia’s space sector and increase the involvement and value add of local technology in national and international space supply chains,” Mr Palermo said.

“Congratulations to [Spiral Blue] and Advanced Navigation and Q-CTRL for leading projects that will contribute to the development of national capability and help to build a high-tech workforce that can make a significant contribution to the national economy, while positioning Australia as a key player in the global space community.”

The Moon to Mars Supply Chain Capability Improvement program offers grants between $250,000 and $1 million. Applications are open until June 30, 2023.

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