Plants for Space ARC funding boost

The University of Western Australia (ISC Plants for Space Node) is one of five Australian universities to receive a $90 million funding boost to create food and medicines for space explorers.

The Australian Government is providing $35 million for the new Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence in Plants for Space, led by the University of Adelaide, with additional funding and in-kind support from 38 partner organisations bringing the total value to $90 million.

The UWA node of the program is led by three WA Scientist of the Year Award winners including Professor Harvey Millar, Professor Ryan Lister and Professor Ian Small, all from UWA’s School of Molecular Sciences. Professor Lister is also from the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research.

Professor Millar said UWA would receive a grant of more than $7 million for its part in the project. He said the centre would help establish a long-term human presence in space.

“Long-term off-Earth habitation is on the horizon but the success of these missions depends on having medicine and nutritious food without the need for resupply missions from Earth,” Professor Lister said.

“Requiring light, water, carbon dioxide, and minimal nutrients, plants are the ultimate solar-powered biofactories for supporting human nutrition and health, as well as production of useful materials.”

“We’ll develop plant varieties and production systems for pick-and-eat plants like water spinach, tomatoes and strawberries,” Professor Millar said.

“We’ll also develop food plants for long-term space nutrition using duckweeds that are one of the fastest growing plants.”

Professor Small said the space work had spin-off benefits for agriculture on Earth and would help reduce the sector’s carbon footprint.

“Many of the challenges needed for long-term life on Moon and Mars are also faced by agriculture on Earth and need to be researched to advance the efficiency of plant-based foods for example increasing fertiliser use efficiency,” Professor Small said.

Head of UWA’s International Space Centre, Associate Professor Danail Obreschkow said the research would lead to significant benefits to life on Earth.

“A large portion of the food required for nutrition, oxygen and wellbeing will need to be produced en route so it’s essential we solve this problem for the continued exploration of our solar system and there will be major benefits also for life on Earth,” Associate Professor Obreschkow said.

MEDIA REFERENCE:

Cecile O’Connor  (UWA Media & PR Advisor)                                                           6488 6876


Dr Shane Walsh at the WA Optical Ground Station.

Fastest ground to airborne vehicle data transfer rate achieved.

Dr Shane Walsh at the WA Optical Ground Station.

How fast can data transfer from ground to an airborne vehicle in free space? 100GB/s – or the equivalent of 100 SD movie downloads *per second*!

Our friends at ICRAR have been published in the journal Nature Scientific Reports, demonstrating the highest ever free space data transfer rate involving an airborne vehicle – one moving at LEO satellite speeds. By solving the atmospheric turbulence issue that has plagued this medium, the team has opened the way for potentially supporting missions such as Artemis, and further exciting research into fundamental physics. Previous space communications have been limited to radio bandwidths.

The ISC is proud to have this team from ICRAR  as one of its members. This following media release posted with permission from the ICRAR website.


A team of Western Australian researchers have found a way to avoid the need to use radio transmitters in critical communications, using new technology featuring super-fast optical lasers.  Radio transmitters, which are still in use, were developed over a century ago.

The researchers, from the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR), have been working on this project for two years, with their findings published overnight in the internationally respected science journal, Nature Scientific Reports.

Although optical communications have been in use since the 1980’s, government and industry have continued to rely on radio transmission technology in settings such as satellite communications due to atmospheric turbulence.   Atmospheric turbulence causes laser beams to drift away from their intended target.

While there have been advances in the use of optical wireless communication in recent years, this WA discovery addresses the turbulence issue, by using a very fast steering mirror that can correct for turbulence at a rate of hundreds of times per second.

This means that superior optical wireless transmission can be used in more settings, reducing the need for reliance on slower radio transmission.

Lead researcher Dr Shane Walsh explains how his team have found a way to use optical communications to fix upon a rapidly moving target in a turbulent environment, with an uninterrupted, high-speed signal.

“This is a culmination of more than two years of research and testing and takes ground to space communications from what was effectively a ‘dial up’ speed in turbulence to a super-fast ‘broadband’ speed.

“I am proud that our WA team of researchers has been able to contribute a piece of this critical communications puzzle, combining existing research with our team’s specialist expertise,” he said.

The team’s discovery was put through its paces using a drone, which simulates a rapidly moving target.  As a next step, the researchers plan to test the technology with a higher altitude aircraft and ultimately a spacecraft, in low earth orbit.

Researchers are now developing a purpose built, optical communications ground station in WA which, when complete, will allow them to further develop and commercialise the technology.  It is expected to be used by industry and governments alike, in applications as diverse as communications with spacecraft, meteorology, defence and disaster management.

About ICRAR

The International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) was founded in 2009 to support Australia’s bid to host the world’s largest radio telescope, the Square Kilometre Array, representing one of the largest scientific endeavours in history.

Constituting a joint venture between Curtin University and the University of Western Australia, and proudly supported by the Government of Western Australia, ICRAR has grown into an internationally renowned, multi-disciplinary research centre for science, engineering and data intensive astronomy, and is one of the top 5 astronomy centres in the world.

Our prize-winning team of 135 researchers from more than 32 countries includes an ARC Laureate Fellow, several ARC Future Fellows, and several Forrest Fellows.

Our Translation and Impact team works closely with industry, government and communities to share our wealth of expertise and to help business grow.

More than half of ICRAR projects involve partnerships with international research institutions, and approximately 300 scientific papers are published annually in prestigious peer reviewed journals.

To learn more, visit icrar.org

ENDS

Media contact: Sharon Segler, Manager Strategic Engagement and Communications

  1. 0409 20 22 55
  2. Sharon.Segler@uwa.edu.au


Space Boot Camp showed diversity and breadth of options in space careers

Space Boot Camp Launches Careers

29 September 2022

Congratulations to the latest cohort of Space Boot Camp cadets, who enthusiastically participated in our space activities across three days, for the 2022 Space Boot Camp.

With thanks to support from the Australian Space Agency and the Fogarty Foundation, 80 students delved into lectures on Our Universe, Plants in Space, Space Law, How We Use Satellites, and Humans in Space by UWA experts and ex-NASA professionals. On Day One, they were lucky enough to participate in creating ammonium-nitrate powered rocket launches of their own, with UWA Aerospace. Day Two saw a Lunar Habitat Design Workshop with the Chair of Architecture at UWA’s School of Design.

The final day of Space Boot Camp entailed two industry excursions – to First Mode, and Fugro Spaarc. Students got to see space careers and technology in action, launching their own pseudo-Mars Rover Landings off a 10m cherry picker, and touring Fugro Spaarc’s new facility in robotics automations – learning what mission operations look like for both terrestial and space missions.

With this latest round of graduates, the International Space Centre has now prepped 140 cadets for a career in space – and we can’t wait to see their futures.


Space Apps Challenge at UWA uses NASA's open source space data to solve real world problems

Using NASA data to solve real world problems.

 

Making inventive solutions to real-world challenges using NASA data from space? Count us in!

The ISC, in collaboration with Space Hub Perth, UWA Venture and silver sponsor AROSE, will be hosting the local version of NASA’s Space Apps Challenge, encouraging collaborative approach to problem solving where teams aim to produce solutions to NASA defined challenges that we currently face here on Earth and in space.

Who Can Participate?

Absolutely anyone! Space is for everyone. If you have a background or are just interested in business, entrepreneurship, science, art, history, engineering, design, law, technology, mathematics, education, health, sports, performing arts, hospitality, automotive mechanics or many other areas, then you’re perfect for this hackathon. And no, you don’t have to know how to code, although you can if you want to.

Details

Team Size

Team size should be a maximum of 6 people. You can form your own team or we can help you find one.

Under 18 years old?

Not a problem. We want to you register for the challenge and amaze us with your ideas. However, we do recommend that you do so with a parent or legal guardian (i.e. they should also register).

Mentors

We’ll have mentors available over the weekend to help you select your challenge, determine your problem, guide you with your thinking about your solution and help you present your project. Mentors will come from industry (space & other), academia and government. Their skill sets, knowledge based and industry experience cover a broad range of areas including science, space, entrepreneurship, marketing, problem analysis, design, communications and outreach, photography, social services, health, resources and many more. Space really is for everyone.

Prizes

We’ll have a bunch of prizes for winning teams in Perth, with the top team also advancing to the Global Nomination Round where NASA will select global finalists. We’ll update the details of the prizes soon, so check back here regularly.

More information

Check out the official page and sign up at NASA Space Apps Challenge Perth.

Astronaut Edward White problem solving in first EVA performed during Gemini 4 flight. Image Credit: NASA.

Space Boot Camp September '22

The International Space Centre (ISC) is holding a 3-day Space Boot Camp from 27 to 29 September 2022.

This a great opportunity for Years 9 and 10 students to meet space experts who have worked with NASA and UWA researchers driving WA’s space frontiers. This Space Boot Camp is designed to provide a range of inspirational and interactive sessions that also help students understand their future education and career options.

At the Space Boot Camp, we cover a broad range of topics from space plant biology, law, rocketry and propulsion, and even designing lunar habitats. The students will be involved in a number of interactive sessions including building and launching their own rockets with the UWA Aerospace Club. They will also learn about human physiology in space, growing plants to support long-term missions, space debris (and whose problem it is), space robotics and space career options in WA. Look out for the new and exciting sessions that we have included in the third day!

The Space Boot Camp will be held on UWA campus in Nedlands for the first two days and on the third day the students will be participating in interactive sessions and site tours with industry partners in Perth city. Relevant details, permission slips and further details will be confirmed after registration and payment.

Our last Space Boot Camp was extremely popular and sold out fast – so don’t miss out! In the meantime, if you have any further queries, please do not hesitate to contact us at isc@uwa.edu.au.

Registration can be made at https://payments.uwa.edu.au/internationalspacecamp.

12 August 2022In Centre News

Phantom Galaxy revealed through radioactive space dust

Thanks to Dr Brent Groves from the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research and the International Space Centre, who has demystified the Phantom Galaxy images in the mid-infrared range from recent James Webb Space Telescope data.

Which part of this beautiful galaxy would kill us if it were near Earth? 😳


Australia's 'Space Boss' awarded UWA honorary doctorate

The ISC congratulates the Head of the Australian Space Agency Enrico Palermo for the confernment of his honorary doctorate at The University of Western Australia in recognition of his extraordinary achievements in space innovation.

Australian Space Agency head Enrico Palermo has been awarded a doctorate by The University of Western Australia in recognition of his extraordinary achievements in space innovation.

Dr Palermo has had a stellar career, helping develop commercial spaceships, since graduating from UWA with a Bachelor of Engineering and Bachelor of Science in 2002.

He was chief operating officer at Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic and president of the Spaceship Company before moving back to Australia last year to head the Australian Space Agency.

Dr Palermo, whose honorary doctorate was conferred at a graduation ceremony in Winthrop Hall, said work in space was helping to tackle global challenges.

“The reason we know the condition of our planet in many ways is because we observe space from Earth,” Dr Palermo said.

“Many of the variables, many of the elements in climate modelling rely on space data so by having an effective space industry here in Australia it is really going to enable  us to deal with the challenges of climate change but also make us more resilient to natural disasters which unfortunately are occurring at a faster frequency.”

The father-of-two, whose own interest in science was encouraged by his grandfather, said space was also a source of inspiration.

“Space is the spark of light that often gets people into science, technology, engineering and maths fields so we have an enormous responsibility to bring space to the nation,” he said.

“My Nonno taught me how things work in the world and in many respects was the person who got me on the journey of loving science and engineering.

Pru Steinerts, from UWA’s International Space Centre, said she was delighted Dr Palermo had been awarded such an honour.

“Dr Palermo continues to be a huge inspiration to UWA’s students and his journey demonstrates what is possible not only in space but as a successful and influential engineer,” Ms Steinerts said.

In an address at the Winthrop Hall ceremony Dr Palermo urged science graduates to ‘never stop learning’ and ‘grab every opportunity’.

“Diverse experiences, positions of discomfort and pushing the boundaries are where you grow the most, innovate the most and learn the most,” Dr Palermo said.

28 July 2022In Centre News

JWST - First Light Images Uncovered!

Thank you to everyone who joined us for the deep dive into the JWST First Light images – such an enthusiastic and curious audience! Your questions kept us on our toes, and we loved every second of it.

Thank you to our speakers, Professor Simon Driver, Dr Sabine Bellstedt and Dr Elisabete da Cunha, supported by emcee Pru Steinerts and tech guru Dr Robin Cook.

Much appreciation to our ISC Student Club volunteers who eagerly put their hands up for any job to support the evening and notched up quite a few steps.

And a special mention to Dr David Gozzard for offering to create not one, but two amazing JWST models in record time!


Astronomers celebrate first images from James Webb Space Telescope's mission

On Tuesday night, during the global release of the First Light images, the broadcast team at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center will cross to the International Space Centre at UWA. We’re humbled and excited to represent Australia in this historic event.

In a serendipitous note, at the time of the broadcast it will be an Australian tracking station in Tidbinbilla receiving the data from JWST, as part of NASA’s Deep Space Network in Canberra.

Broadcast of the First Light images release begins at 10.30pm AWST – you can live stream from home here: NASA TV Live

UWA speaks to Professor Simon Driver on the First Light Images Release


Live cross to ISC from NASA's Global Press Conference for JWST

The University of Western Australia was proud to represent Australia in the First Light images release by the NASA – National Aeronautics and Space Administration JWST team. First cab off the rank – Perth!

The International Space Centre was the only NASA-accredited outreach event in Australia, and as such was invited to participate in the global press conference on July 14. Thank you to NASA’s Strategic Partnerships Manager (Science Mission Directorate) Anita Dey for this exciting opportunity to involve our team in such an exciting event.