Accelerator to help Aussie tech survive in space

Friday 18 June 2021 10am

Australia’s spacecraft and satellites will better survive damaging radiation and extreme conditions thanks to a $2.5 million grant, for space science to be led by the Australian National University (ANU). 

The grant creates a national network of space testing facilities and brings Australia into an elite group of countries with this kind of advanced capability.

Director of ANU Institute for Space Professor Anna Moore said the new funding and upgraded facilities would help “launch Australia’s burgeoning space industry to another level”.

“Australia’s space industry is growing. Upgraded facilities will mean we can make sure the payloads we send into space, including satellites and spacecraft, are able to survive before they blast off,” she said.

Damage to components caused by the intense radiation in space is a major risk factor for space missions.

A large part of the funding will go to the Heavy Ion Accelerator Facility (HIAF) at ANU, allowing extreme radiation testing of components destined for space, like electronics, sensors and solar cells. 

The funding will enable the creation of a new beamline, in which technology can be subjected to radiation similar to what it would experience in space. 

It will offer a wide range of ion beams ranging from protons – the main component of the solar wind – up to heavy ions.  Although rarer than protons, heavy ions have the potential to do much more damage to electronics.

Professor Mahananda Dasgupta, nuclear physicist at the ANU Heavy Ion Accelerator Facility said the sovereign capability for ion-beam testing that the accelerator provides is unique.

“This $100M facility is the highest energy ion accelerator in Australia, and will act as a springboard to propel the Australian space industry to the next level.”

The long-term partnership between ANU and the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS) has ensured that HIAF is a state-of-the-art facility that can be leveraged quickly for the burgeoning Australian space industry, said Professor Dasgupta.

“The entirely new beam line will be built within a year. 

“The aim is to deliver accelerated ions ranging from a few hundred per second up to a thousand billion per second, with velocities up to 20% of the speed of light.

The new beam line may also open many other possibilities beyond testing components destined for space, including in space medicine, cancer research, and cutting-edge radiation detection.

The grant will also be used to upgrade the National Space Test Facility at ANU as well as other facilities across Australia.
“This generous funding will ensure Australian space innovations can be tested to easily enter new markets around the world,” Professor Moore said.
“Testing space payloads, components and spacecraft before they are launched into space helps make space missions more successful.
“This funding will deliver much-needed, state-of-the-art radiation testing facilities to ensure the success of Australian space missions.

“ANU is leading a national team of research and industry partners to use their combined infrastructure to offer this radiation capability.”
Professor Moore said many Australian companies were looking to “pivot to space,” and the new national network of facilities will make sure their products are space ready.
“This funding and national network of upgraded facilities will make it easier to do that,” she said.

“Australian companies who have never worked on space can now cast their gaze upwards and to the final frontier; developing and testing components and hardware that are vital to the success of space missions before they leave the planet.
“This funding will help transform Australia into a world-leading space qualification ecosystem with reach across the Indo-Pacific region.
“This is an exciting time for the space industry, and the team would like to thank the Federal Government, the Australian Space agency and the ACT Government for their support for this vital work.”

The new funding, part of the Space Infrastructure Fund from the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources, will bring together the work of six partners:

  • ANU will deliver internationally-recognised radiation testing at the Heavy-Ion accelerator, and the ability to monitor sensitive hardware in the largest thermal vacuum chamber in Australia (the WOMBAT XL), the first standardised pyroshock testing facility in Australia, and better temperature mapping during testing. 
  • Nova Systems will support ANU with its space expertise, bringing to bear its knowledge of qualification testing, Australian testing facilities and space sector players. Nova Systems will also support the development of an online database of off-the-shelf tested parts.
  • The Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) will apply its expertise to ensure Australia is able to meet the international standard for Total Ionisation Dosage (TID) radiation testing. It will ready its suite of irradiation capabilities to cover all levels of radiation testing, so that Australian products can enter into global supply chains faster and our local space industry can innovate at speed.
  • Steritech will offer large scale radiation testing for industry at locations in QLD, NSW and VIC.
  • The University of Wollongong will develop laser-based screening to provide a low-cost service to industry in preparation for full radiation testing and testing of sector-supplied off-the-shelf components.
  • Saber Astronautics will integrate qualification with the Mission Control Centre data and infrastructure standards, determining the appropriate space environment profiles for qualification testing.


Professor Mahananda Dasgupta
T: (02)61252081

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