News & Events

Upcoming Events

The Australian Space Eye
Dr Lee Spitler
Macquarie University & Australian Astronomical Observatory

Monday, 19th October
Lecture Theatre - Room 224
Electrical Engineering Building
UNSW Kensington Campus

The Australian Space Eye will consist of a 6U CubeSat that will house an astronomical telescope. I will detail scientific objectives of the mission and how they have driven the preliminary design of the CubeSat. I will discuss preliminary details on communication systems, the science payload, and maintaining sub-arcsecond pointing stability. The spacecraft complements a ground-based observing system, Huntsman, which is optimised for detecting extend, faint astronomical targets at shorter wavelengths of light.

Dr. Lee Spitler is a lecturer jointly based at Macquarie University and the Australian Astronomical Observatory. He uses observations of distant galaxies from large telescopes to map out the historical timeline of our universe. In 2010, he received his PhD in Astrophysics with a specific expertise in using astronomical imaging to study the evolution of galaxies.

An Integrated Economics Model for ISRU in Support of a Mars Colony
Robert Shishko
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Tuesday, 27th October
Physics Theatre
Old Main Building (Building ref K14)
UNSW Kensington Campus

Human ventures in space are entering a new phase in which missions formerly driven by government agencies are now being replaced by those led by commercial enterprises – in launch, satellite deployment, resupply of the International Space Station, and space tourism. In the not-too-distant future, commercial opportunities will also include the mining of asteroids, the Moon, and Mars. This talk examines the role of In Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU) and Off-Earth Mining (OEM) in a growing space economy. (The term ‘mining’ is taken to embrace minerals, ice/water, and other in situ resources.) OEM can be the engine that drives the space economy, so it would be useful to understand what OEM market conditions and technology requirements are needed for that economy to prosper. With that as the goal, this talk describes four quantitative technical and business models that we have developed and integrated to address the economics of OEM in the context of a Mars Colony. Such a colony will need in situ resources not only for its own survival, but to prosper and grow, it must create viable business ventures, essentially by fulfilling the demand for in situ resources from and on Mars. One result of our in-progress work is the recognition of the need to apply systems architecting methods and tools to address the Human Colonization of Mars (HCM).

Interplanetary Supply Chain Management: Some Fundamental Concepts and Models
Robert Shishko
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Thursday, 29th October
Seminar Room G3
Electrical Engineering Building
UNSW Kensington Campus

Sustained exploration of the Earth-Moon-Mars system and beyond will require careful consideration of supply chains at the interplanetary scale. Old logistics paradigms, such as those employed during the Apollo or International Space Station programs, will not be viable at such scales. For humans to venture to other worlds, logistics and supply chain considerations must be integral part of the trade-space from which cost-effective space exploration architectures emerge. This talk discusses some of the fundamental concepts and building blocks needed to model interplanetary supply chains. Over the last few years, these concepts and models, developed largely at JPL and MIT, have been used to investigate alternatives for sending and sustaining humans on Mars, and to inform NASA long-term planning.

Landing on a Comet: The Rosetta Mission
Prof Monica Grady CBE
Professor of Planetary and Space Sciences
The Open University, UK

Tuesday, 3rd November
Clancy Auditorium
UNSW Kensington Campus

Please click here to go to the Off Earth Mining Forum website for the description and RSVP details for this event.

NASA's Asteroid Redirect Mission
Brian Muirhead
ARM Project Manager
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory Chief Engineer

Thursday, 5th November
Clancy Auditorium
UNSW Kensington Campus

Please click here to go to the Off Earth Mining Forum website for the description and RSVP details for this event.

4th - 6th November 2015
Australian Technology Park
Locomotive Street, Eveleigh NSW 2015


The first Off-Earth Mining Forum, held at UNSW Australia's Kensington campus in February 2013 was an extraordinary event. Media coverage had a reach of over 8 million people across the world, with radio coverage in the UK and US, newspaper coverage in India and New Zealand and coverage by all Australian television networks. The second Off-Earth Mining Forum, to be held in November 2015 in conjunction with the third International Future Mining Conference, will be even bigger. The excitement generated by this research, fundamental to the establishment of economies in space, is growing.

The forum will host speakers from across the spectrum of off-earth mining issues: missions, resources, mining technologies, robotics, automation, instrumentation, legal impediments, business risks, and ethical considerations.

Asteroid mining companies are set to launch their first spacecraft in the near future, and the NASA is planning colonisation in near future by using resources available in space through off-earth mining research activities. If you'd like to know what they're planning and what they need to do to make it happen, we'll see you at the Second Off-Earth Mining Forum as part of the Third International Future Mining Conference.

To find out about previous events at ACSER click here.

ACSER in the Media


Space Mining (Radio Interview with Prof Dempster on ABC Radio National: Late Night Live, 1st September 2015)

Is Spending on Space a Giant Waste? (The Ethics Centre, 7th August 2015)

Space mining is closer than you think, and the prospects are great (The Conversation, 7th August 2015)

Mining That's Out of This World (Radio Interview with Prof Dempster on 2SER 107.3FM, 7th August 2015)

Mining the moon could make space travel to Mars a possibility (Radio Interview with Prof Dempster on ABC World Today (ABC Radio National, ABC Local), 21 July 2015)

Homemade satellites herald new age for Australian space industry (Radio Interview with Prof Dempster on ABC World Today (ABC Radio National, ABC Local), 22nd June 2015)

ISS Progress Comes Crashing Back to Earth (Radio Interview with Prof Dempster on 2SER 107.3FM, 7th May 2015)

Space treaties are a challenge to launching small satellites in orbit (The Conversation, 17th April 2015)

High-altitude balloon provides foray into final frontier (UNSW Newsroom, 15th April 2015)

For 2014 and earlier coverage click here.


High-altitude Balloons Provide Foray into Final Frontier

15 April 2015

UNSW is entering two teams entering the Global Space Balloon Challenge for 2015: the BLUEsat team and a team of enterprising postgraduate students whose team flies under the moniker "BALU".

The BALU team, sponsored by the School of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering, recently launched their high-altitude balloon from Warrumbungle National Park, in central NSW. The launch was the UNSW team’s second successful foray into the stratosphere, having competed in the inaugural Global Space Balloon Challenge in 2014 when they won the prize for Best Science Experiment. More than 200 teams from 47 countries took part in this year’s competition, which aims to develop science, engineering and technology skills and provide a low-cost foray into near-space exploration.

From the launch on 12 April, the balloon travelled to a height of 34.33 kilometres above the Warrumbungles – about three times the cruising altitude of commercial aircraft. The unmanned latex helium balloon was specifically manufactured to cope with huge temperature fluctuations and massive expansion due to the decrease in pressure at high altitude.

The team was able to capture spectacular images of the Warrumbungle mountain ranges, including the Siding Springs Observatory, Gunnedah and the curvature of the Earth's surface. Click here for the full set of images.

Read more... Team member Will Crowe said they "chose the Warrumbungles for its rugged beauty and because it was far enough away from the coast that the balloon wouldn’t blow into the ocean...We felt very stressed on the morning of the launch as we knew something can always go wrong even with the best laid plans.”

The balloon’s payload included a powerful avionics computer and a visual display to check the state of the electronic subsystems, as well as two high-definition cameras and an array of sensors and measuring equipment. The balloon travelled 140 kilometres from the launch site, following the Oxley Highway, before landing on a farm north east of Gunnedah with the help of a six-foot self-deploying parachute.

“We were ecstatic on recovering the balloon. The farmer upon whose property the balloon landed was also very excited,” William says.

In addition to new avionics, the team also used a novel payload container and solar heating system to minimise the weight, which allowed the balloon to fly higher and further than the previous launch.

“The main challenge was keeping the electronics warm so they could operate above their minimum temperature requirements. We recorded a minimum external temperature of minus 60° celsius but thankfully our novel solar warming system worked well and kept the internal temperature above minus 15° celsius,” says Joshua Yen.

“I think we went extremely well in this year's challenge. All the electronics worked and survived, and perhaps most importantly our payload design worked as well as we hoped."

The team now plans to enter the Global Space Balloon Challenge competition categories including best experiment, best photo, highest altitude and best design, with the winners announced in June.

Click here for more info on the Global Space Balloon Challenge.

The BLUEsat team will be launching their balloon in late April 2015. You can find footage from their earlier attempts on their YouTube Channel.

This story was first reported by the UNSW Newsroom.


For ACSER News from 2014 and earlier please click here.