Message from the Director

A Message From the Director (from the 2015 Annual Report)

Prof Dempstwer introducing NASA JPL’s Brian Muirhead at the 2016 OEMF Public Lecture on NASA’s Asteroid Redirect Mission. Clancy Auditorium, 3 November 2015This is the fifth Australian Centre for Space Engineering Research (ACSER) annual report, covering our fifth full calendar year of operation, 2015. This was a year of consolidation and commencement of new projects.

In 2015, we were looking forward to launching our new ARC research projects, launching some of our satellites and payloads into space, and had the prospect of being moved out of the Electrical Engineering building.

In the previous year (2014), it had been important to stabilise the centre in the wake of the end of ASRP funding. In 2015, that process of stabilisation was confirmed as we did not lose any staff this year. This may seem a minor victory, but given the momentous drop in centre funding in 2013 and “holding the fort” during 2014, it meant that 2015 was a year where the centre could consolidate and start producing outputs from the various projects.

The QB50 and Biarri programs were again delayed, so launches for them are expected now in 2015, and for the SMiLE payload. As 2015 drew to a close, QB50 was ready for final test and the Biarri Namuru GPS receiver payloads were awaiting integration in the US. Excitingly, the University of Sydney QB50 satellite that had withdrawn from the program was made viable again after intervention from ACSER and ANU, so we are now involved with two QB50 satellites.

The two projects related to locating GPS interference with our industrial partner GPSat Systems, Linkage “Protecting Critical Transport Infrastructure using Hybrid Approaches for Interference and Spoofer Detection and Localisation” and CTD “Geolocation of GPS RF Interference to Support Defence Operations” both commenced without delay and began producing results.

The two ARC projects that required recruitment, Linkage “Rapid Recovery from Radiation-induced Errors in Reconfigurable Hardware” and Discovery “Designing Radiation-Tolerant Reconfigurable Systems for Space” were both delayed, the Linkage due to signing the project agreements, and the Discovery because a fraction of the proposed funds were awarded and as a result the project team was reconfigured. Both had commenced by the end of the year with new staff appointed.

Our first major project with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, “An Integrated Economic Model for ISRU in support of a Mars Colony” started and ended in 2015, with results reported at the Off-Earth Mining Forum. At the end of the year we are hoping to progress a project with NASA’s Kennedy Space Centre, which would see a UNSW researcher and PhD student visiting NASA for a period of months in 2016.

Delta V, the space business accelerator, aimed to create a space business ecosystem in Sydney, had a frustrating year, unable to gain the first major investor or sponsor.

Events continued to be an area of impact for ACSER. The first large event was the “Launching Cubsats for and from Australia” workshop in April, which had 37 speakers in a packed schedule, presenting live from 9 countries, withover 100 people attending. The second major 2015 event was the Second Off-Earth Mining Forum. The first Forum was an incredible media success, and not surprisingly, that was not repeated. However, the Forum itself was much more focussed, with higher quality presentations, and a general agreement that water would be the first resource to be exploited. 36 presentations were made and over 90 people attended. Keynotes and public lectures were from Monica Grady (UK) on Rosetta, and Brian Muirhead (JPL) on the Asteroid Redirect Mission. A further significant public lecture was presented by Warwick Holmes, of the European Space Agency titled “The European Space Agency’s Rosetta Mission To Comet 67P”. We hosted talks by many Australian speakers as well as international visitors such as visitors from Harbin Engineering University (China), International Space University, Ecole Polytechnique Federale De Lausanne (Switzerland), and Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina (Brazil).

We did make the move to the Material Sciences Building so life will be more difficult for the two years where we are well separated from our lab. 

The coming year presents some interesting challenges, but optimistically, could see five launches for us (Biarri x 2, QB50x2 and SMiLE). A problem we’d like to have!

Professor Andrew Dempster
Director, Australian Centre for Space Engineering Research


A Message From the Director (from the 2014 Annual Report)

Professor Andrew Dempster

In the aftermath of the Australian Space Research Program, 2014 was a year of recovery and stabilisation for ACSER. 

The highlights of the year were the awarding of three Australian Research Council (ARC) projects, two in the Linkage scheme (“Protecting Critical Transport Infrastructure using Hybrid Approaches for Interference and Spoofer Detection and Localisation”, $361,000, and “Rapid Recovery from Radiation-induced Errors in Reconfigurable Hardware”, $232,000) and one Discovery (“Designing Radiation-Tolerant Reconfigurable Systems for Space”, $340,300). These awards confirm the excellence of the work performed by the centre, and enable us to have some confidence in planning the next few years.

Another important funding win was the Capability and Technology Demonstrator Program project (“Geolocation of GPS RF Interference to Support Defence Operations”, ACSER share $300,000) led by our industrial partner GPSat Systems. In both this project and the first of the Linkage projects, we are developing a system to locate the source of interference to satellite navigation with our partners GPSat Systems and the University of Adelaide.

The QB50 project passed CDR, and several other milestones. The payloads all now exist and are largely tested. The bus algorithms are also under development by an undergraduate team. The SMiLE project built several prototypes and is due for launch on the international space station in 2015.

We investigated the use of GNSS, inertial and ultra-wideband sensors in a consultancy with Thales in an effort to solve the positioning problem for cooperative intelligent transport systems, which promises to be a significant area of research as driverless cars become more prevalent.

An exciting development in 2014 was the founding of Delta V, a space business accelerator for Sydney. This was an initiative of ACSER, University of Sydney, Saber Astronautics and Launchbox. The aim of Delta V is to create a space business ecosystem so that a sustainable Australian space industry can be bootstrapped in Sydney.

Events continued to be an area of impact for ACSER. The main 2014 event was the relaunch of the SNAP Lab and the accompanying workshop, GNSS Futures, in July, which hosted international keynotes and attracted a significant national attendance. This relaunch formalises the relationship between the GNSS research groups in the Schools of Electrical Engineering and Telecommunications, and Civil and Environmental Engineering. Once again, we hosted the SIAA Executive and combined that with a public lecture by Dr David Williams, Executive Director, National Facilities and Collections, CSIRO. We hosted talks by many Australian speakers as well as international visitors such as the CEO of Deep Space Industries, and visitors from University College London and the European Space Agency.

The new Master of Engineering Science in Satellite Systems Engineering degree was launched. Three courses ran in 2014 and the initial cohort was nine students. As the course establishes itself, we expect healthy growth in these numbers.

2014 saw a significant change of direction in Bluesat’s undergraduate engagement in space. The students demonstrated their space robotics capability at Arkaroola, began a balloon launch program and began working on cubesat development.

The coming year presents some interesting challenges. Some of these are welcome, with the launch of so many new funded projects, but others are less so, such as the second move of premises in the centre’s short life as building G17 is renovated, with the promise of a third move later on when we return. 

Professor Andrew Dempster
Director, Australian Centre for Space Engineering Research