Govt opens Moon to Mars space grants


Denham Sadler
Senior Reporter

Local companies looking to get involved with NASA’s Moon to Mars mission will have access to more than $25 million in grants as part of an Australian government effort to grow local capability and supply chains in the sector.

The federal government announced late last year $150 million in funding to get Australian companies involved in the US government’s public-private Moon to Mars space exploration program. It also signed up to join NASA’s Artemis lunar program, which aims to return astronauts to the moon by 2024.

At the time it was unclear how the funds would be doled out, and whether they’d go directly to space SMEs looking to sell or manufacture items for the program, or directly to the Australian Space Agency.

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As part of the Moon to Mars program, NASA will be working closely with private companies, offering a chance for Australian firms to become part of the organisation’s supply chain.

Industry Minister Karen Andrews has now revealed that one of the first elements of the $150 million funding package will help local companies to do this, with $25.7 million in grants over five years for local companies to grow capability, create jobs and take part in the program.

The Supply Chain Capability Improvement Grants will run across the next five years, offering grants between $250,000 and $1 million to fund up to 75 percent of project expenditure.

“As part of the Moon to Mars initiative, these grants will drive the growth of skills, capabilities and capacity in the Australian space industry, including leveraging our existing strong manufacturing base,” Ms Andrews said.

“This is an investment in Aussie businesses when they need it the most. Importantly, the grants will help showcase our best ideas and technologies on the global stage and see Australia play a role in NASA’s endeavours to go to the Moon and on to Mars. It will also help put Australian businesses in international space supply chains, whether that’s projects for other agencies or for more commercial endeavours.”

The grants will run on a rolling basis and will be open until mid-2023.

Australian Space Agency head Dr Megan Clark said improving national capability in space is a key element of government policy in the area.

“These grants are about Australia building on its strengths, partnering for success by diversifying the economy, and building a high tech workforce that can make a significant contribution internationally,” Dr Clark said.

“Supply chain partnerships and a clear commercialisation pathway are key to these Supply Chain Capability Improvement grants. We want to see partnerships that bring Australian space products and services to life and contribute to Australia’s export market capacity. This will create jobs and increase skills at a local level.”

As part of the application, companies will have to show evidence of domestic or international space supply chain opportunities, such as a letter from a customer, and evidence from the board that the project has support and is achievable.

Dr Clark ran a public consultation on how the $150 million from the government should be spent earlier this year.

The Australian Space Agency chief also recently signed a Statement of Intent with NASA on expanding cooperation between the two organisations.

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