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UNSW-led consortium wins $70m for space manufacturing

UNSW-led consortium wins $70m for space manufacturing

UNSW Sydney has led a consortium that just won a $70 million grant to advance cheaper and stronger manufacturing in the space industry.

The funding will be allocated over 10 years and will help the group develop new research projects that will aid the rapid manufacturing of space vehicles by using composite materials. It will also help other “high-value” industries such as green energy, civil and marine sectors.

Announced on Wednesday, Minister for Science and Technology Melissa Price awarded the grant under the Australia government’s Cooperative Research Centres (CRC).

The consortium is between six Australian universities, Australia’s Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) and 29 industry partners, dubbed the Sovereign Manufacturing Automation for Composites Cooperative Research Centre (SoMAC CRC).


“The composites industry has a fast-growing, $100 billion international market,” said UNSW engineering Professor Gangadhara Prusty, who led the bid.

“This grant will support projects that will benefit a wide range of our flagship sovereign industries including space, defence, energy and infrastructure.”

Composites refer to materials that are formed by combining two or more materials together, to create manufacturing structures that are cheaper, lighter, stronger and often more durable than others.

Composites have become a major part of the aerospace revolution, especially within the manufacturing of aircraft after slowly moving away from wood and metal.


But to broaden Australia’s composite manufacturing abilities, the nation will need to work together, as the industry is often dominated by small to medium organisations, according to Professor Nicholas Fisk, the deputy vice-chancellor, research and enterprise at UNSW Sydney.

“We are seeing Australia contemplate massive investment into the hydrogen economy, take a clear step forward in space, and rebuild its automotive presence in electric buses and cars,” he said.

“Composites are essential for these and other major industries to be competitive and position Australia at the forefront of global technology.”  

The SoMAC CRC group will also establish research programs incorporating recycling and reusable material systems that are in great demand from customers and industry.

The news comes as UNSW’s space department has received a slew of government grants in recent months.

In April, the Commonwealth government invested in a major collaboration to advance space technology, seeing UNSW and University of Adelaide lead a $238 million charge for defence research and development.

The collaboration, dubbed Defence Trailblazer: Concept to Sovereign Capability (CSC), aims to fast-track the development of 100 new defence products and capabilities, with a specific focus on autonomous technologies, hypersonics and high-frequency technologies.

Isabella Richards

Isabella Richards

Bella Richards is a journalist who has written for several local newspapers, her university newspaper and a tech magazine, and completed her Bachelor of Communications (Journalism) at the University of Technology Sydney in 2020. She joined Momentum Media in 2021, and has since written breaking news stories across Space Connect, Australian Aviation and World of Aviation.

You can email Bella on: [email protected]

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