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iLAuNCH to test ‘space taxi’ technology

The iLAuNCH collaboration will work with Space Machines Company to help certify its upcoming spacecraft that is designed to repair and taxi other satellites in orbit.

The agreement will see Australian National University use its test facility to help SMC’s Optimus Platform reach TRL 8 – a key flight readiness indicator.

The $180-million iLAuNCH trailblazer is a partnership between academic institutions and more than 20 industry partners aimed at accelerating the development of the space manufacturing sector.

“For the entire history of space flight, we’ve launched our expensive technologically advanced satellites into orbit hoping they will survive for years, but totally unable to refuel or service them if problems occur,” said iLAuNCH Trailblazer executive director, Darin Lovett.


“This partnership to develop in-space transportation and logistics services opens a new global market opportunity while setting up enduring partnerships within the Australian space ecosystem.”

SMC co-founder George Freney described his company’s technology has being like “roadside assistance” in orbit, and said it could improve the resilience and economics of satellite operations.

“The Optimus platform is scalable and adaptable to the market,” he said.

“The iLAuNCH project helps us to mature its design, leveraging National Space Test Facility’s deep expertise in spacecraft prototype testing.”


The joint project is the latest backed by iLAuNCH, who appeared on the latest episode of the Space Connect Podcast, which you can listen to above.

Space Connect also reported earlier this month how iLAuNCH has invited businesses to apply for its second round of grants to fund space research.

Companies have until Monday, 20 November 2023, to bid and the team will host an online information session on Wednesday, 1 November. To find out more, click here.

New iLAuNCH projects must be undertaken with one of three partner universities: the University of Southern Queensland, the Australian National University or the University of South Australia.

They also need to be in one of its “core commercialisation” project areas that include:

Additive manufacturing

Material processing and advanced materials

Hypersonics and flight diagnostics

Rocket launch; rocket manufacturing

Satellites, communications and sensors

Advanced technologies for aerospace and space applications

“The iLAuNCH Trailblazer is a $180-million program to transform Australia’s competitiveness by rapidly commercialising university research through industry partnerships. Our efforts directly enhance Australia’s burgeoning space industry,” said Lovett.

“We have already brought together a powerful consortium of industry and research partners focusing on developing advanced technologies for space and aerospace manufacturing applications, including associated manufacturing supply chains.

“iLAuNCH commercialisation projects aim to elevate the technology readiness level (TRL) of research projects to commercial-ready applications, foster pathways to market, and ultimately propel Australia’s space and aerospace industries to profitability.”

Click here to listen on your device

Adam Thorn

Adam Thorn

Adam is a journalist who has worked for more than 40 prestigious media brands in the UK and Australia. Since 2005, his varied career has included stints as a reporter, copy editor, feature writer and editor for publications as diverse as Fleet Street newspaper The Sunday Times, fashion bible Jones, media and marketing website Mumbrella as well as lifestyle magazines such as GQ, Woman’s Weekly, Men’s Health and Loaded. He joined Momentum Media in early 2020 and currently writes for Australian Aviation and World of Aviation.

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