Queensland University of Technology (QUT) has received $1.2 million in new funding from the Australian Research Council (ARC) and the go-ahead to build Australia’s largest indoor outdoor facility to test the equipment, robotics and materials processing techniques under realistic Moon, Mars and asteroid conditions.

The 20 x 10 meter lunar test bed will be able to simulate different planetary environments to support robotics, sensing and other space-applied research.

According to a statement released by QUT, the lunar test bed will be the first of its kind in Australia and will provide unique capabilities within QUT’s new $5 million Space Technology District to be opened in 2022 at the Kelvin Grove campus. .

Development leader, Associate Professor Thierry Peynot of the QUT Center for Robotics said autonomous rover navigation, materials instrumentation, simple construction, and mining activities were among the immediate applications.

“The QUT Lunar Testbed will allow researchers and partners to safely test operating rovers in the presence of airborne dust and is expected to support the development of a lunar rover to be launched by 2026. as part of Australia’s first lunar mission,” he said.

The lunar testbed will contain high-fidelity simulated regolith slopes and boulders – fabricated moon dust -, a gantry crane for microgravity simulation, realistic lighting conditions and high ceilings to facilitate testing between collaborative airborne and ground technologies.

QUT will move a dedicated research technical support team into the facility, which includes office space and an on-site workshop.

The university says the facility should expand hands-on learning opportunities for students in electrical engineering, robotics, mechatronics and industrial design.

Community visitors will also be encouraged to view the rover and other simulations from a public viewing platform as part of QUT’s commitment to STEM awareness.

QUT secured funding for its lunar testbed from the Australian Research Council’s (ARC) Linkage Infrastructure, Equipment and Facilities (LIEF) program in December in a successful $2.1 million bid with UNSW to establish the Space Resources Environmental Analogue Facility (SREAF).

The SREAF will include QUT’s covered outdoor lunar test rig and UNSW facilities, including a smaller indoor test rig and a dirty thermal vacuum chamber (DTVAC) for testing under temperature and temperature conditions. pressure expected in other planetary environments.

Prof Peynot said the rover and other proven space technologies at the new facilities could qualify to operate on the Moon, for example, allowing participation in the Australian Space Agency’s Moon to Mars programmes.

“Overall, the facilities will be used to test robotics, sensing, geology, rock mechanics, materials and space-related technologies in inhospitable environments.

“The lunar environment, for example, is incredibly harsh. There’s no atmosphere; very fine, charged, reactive dust that sticks to everything; 300-degree temperature swings and 200 times Earth’s radiation.

“Technology proven in the outer lunar test bed can transition to DTVAC – or vice versa.”

Professor Andrew Dempster, Director of the Australian Center for Space Engineering Research (ACSER) at UNSW, led the SREAF application and said the grant comes at a critical time to support Australian space research.

“This is a big boost for the collaboration between UNSW and QUT. We have worked together on a range of projects and the facilities themselves represent a huge leap forward for space resource research in Australia.

Joining Professors Peynot and Dempster as lead researchers for establishment of the SREAF.

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