A moon rover in a test bed
Original Published Date: 
Monday, January 17, 2022

Full article issued by the Queensland University of Technology.

The Queensland University of Technology (QUT) and The University of New South Wales (UNSW) have been awarded $2.1 million in funding through the ARC's Linkage Infrastructure Equipment and Facilities scheme, to establish a Space Resources Environmental Analogue Facility (SREAF). As part of this, QUT will build Australia’s largest covered outdoor facility for testing equipment, robotics and materials processing techniques in realistic Moon, Mars and asteroid conditions.

The first of its kind in Australia, the 20 x 10 m 'lunar testbed' will be capable of simulating different planetary environments with high-fidelity simulated regolith (fabricated moondust) slopes and boulders, a gantry crane for micro-gravity simulation, realistic lighting conditions, and high ceilings to facilitate tests between collaborative airborne and ground technologies. 

Leading development, Associate Professor Thierry Peynot from the QUT Centre for Robotics said autonomous rover navigation, materials instrumentation, simple construction and mining activities were among 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 for launch by 2026 as part of Australia’s first moon mission,' he said.

Professor Andrew Dempster, director of the Australian Centre for Space Engineering Research at UNSW led the SREAF bid and said the grant came at a critical time to support Australia’s space research.

'This is a great boost for the collaboration between UNSW and QUT. We have worked together on a range of projects and the facilities themselves are a huge leap forward for space resources research in Australia.'

Photo credit: 

Image: A lunar rover undergoing testing. Source: Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 2.0).