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Australian Space Agency launches Moon to Mars Demonstrator grant program

Stephen Kuper

The Australian Space Agency has officially launched the second stage of grants for the $150 million Moon to Mars Demonstrator Feasibility Grants to support industry and research institutions with grant funds for new feasibility activities for space projects.

Australian Space Agency launches Moon to Mars Demonstrator grant program
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The Commonwealth government is backing Australian businesses to develop and launch new products into space, as part of a plan to get more local companies to be part of NASA’s Moon to Mars program.

The $150 million Moon to Mars initiative is part of close to $700 million being invested by the Australian government into the Australian civil space sector as part of its goal to triple the sector’s size to $12 billion and create up to an extra 20,000 jobs by 2030.

The M2M initiative provides the opportunity for Australian businesses and researchers to join NASA’s plan to travel to the moon and on to Mars. The Moon to Mars initiative consists of three integrated elements over a five-year period:

  • Supply Chain program: Targets projects and activities to build capability and support local industry to deliver products and services to national and global space supply chains. Supply Chain Capability Improvement grants are open now;
  • Demonstrator program: Provides a pathway for Australian industry and researchers to develop and launch products into space that will create new capability, and enable new business ventures, revenue streams or markets. Demonstrator Feasibility grants are now open; and
  • Trailblazer program: The Agency’s inspire piece which will involve a major Australian project supporting NASA’s Moon to Mars activities. Expected to commence in 2022.

The $3.7 million Demonstrator Feasibility program offers grants of between $50,000 and $200,000 over a two-year period. The aim of the grants is to provide opportunities for Australian businesses and researchers to scope out the feasibility of projects that have the potential to operate or support operations in space. This includes activities that could support NASA’s Moon to Mars space exploration program.

Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Karen Andrews said the Demonstrator Feasibility grants will allow businesses and researchers to look into whether their projects are viable – showcasing local space capabilities on the global stage.

"Investing in space is investing in our future. By backing Aussie businesses to be part of global space supply chains we can grow our economy and create new jobs. These grants will provide opportunities for businesses and researchers to scope out the feasibility of projects which have the potential to operate or support operations in space, including activities related to NASA’s Moon to Mars endeavours," Minister Andrews said.

These grants support Australian businesses and researchers by assisting industry and research institutions to conduct feasibility activities for space projects. The objectives are to:

  • Demonstrate Australian small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) capacity and capability to develop space projects with a clear potential to support Moon to Mars activities for any of the following:
    • Qualification;
    • Space operability;
    • Space support; and
    • Access to space.
  • Develop and demonstrate the feasibility of space projects with the:
    • Potential to operate or directly support operations in space;
    • Ability to support Moon to Mars activities;
  • Demonstrate the value, including commercial value, of space projects to the space industry and marketplace; and
  • Develop Australian SME capability in early mission development activities. 

In order to be eligible for the grants program, you must: 

  • Have an Australian business number (ABN);
  • Be registered for the goods and services tax (GST); and
  • An entity incorporated in Australia and a trading corporation, where your trading activities either:
    • Form a sufficiently significant proportion of the corporation’s overall activities as to merit it being described as a trading corporation; and
    • Are a substantial and not merely peripheral activity of the corporation.
  •  A Publicly Funded Research Organisation as defined in the Demonstrator Feasibility Guidelines.

Joint applications are acceptable, provided you have a lead organisation who is the main driver of the project and is eligible to apply.

Grants of between $50,000 and $200,000 are available under the two-year Demonstrator Feasibility program. Visit https://business.gov.au/m2m-demo-feas for more information or to apply.

Minister Andrews added, "Space isn’t just about launch. Space technology can improve our lives, from assisting in the delivery of remote rural medicine, helping us stay connected with loved ones across the world and assisting farmers to manage their land through advancements in robotics.

"We’re also focused on building manufacturing capability and growing the space sector here at home – a key priority area of our government’s Modern Manufacturing Strategy," Minister Andrews added. 

Head of the Australian Space Agency Dr Megan Clark AC said the Demonstrator program will support commercially focused projects to build capability in the national civil space sector and open up global market opportunities. 

"The Demonstrator Feasibility grants are about building capacity and capability in entities that are at the starting point on the path to developing and launching products into space. The grants will help businesses and researchers identify the feasibility of potential projects before they embark on the next stages of a space mission," Dr Clark said. 

Applications will only be accepted where you can provide evidence from your board (or chief executive or equivalent if there is no board) that:

  • The project is supported;
  • You can complete the project and meet the costs of the project not covered by Demonstrator Feasibility Grants funding; and
  • Confirms you are a trading corporation. 

"Space exploration opens up new opportunities for Australia as it provides an avenue for Australian businesses to apply our best technology and know-how to space missions. These activities can also support the creation of high-value manufacturing capability, which can be transferred to other industries," Dr Clark added. 

In order to support this initiative, the Australian Space Agency is holding an industry information session for the recently opened Moon to Mars Demonstrator Feasibility Grants. The space industry, businesses and researchers who are in the initial stages of developing and launching products into space and are interested in applying for a grant under the Demonstrator Feasibility program.

The Australian Space Agency aims to transform and grow a globally respected Australian space industry that lifts the broader economy, inspires and improves the lives of Australians – underpinned by strong international and national engagement.

The agency is the front door for Australia's international engagement on civil space and operates as the national priority setting mechanism for the civil space sector. The agency ensures that Australia's civil space activities contribute to productivity and employment across the Australian economy, secure new knowledge and capability, and inspire all Australians.

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