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Australian-French space mission possible following UNSW deal with French space agency


Discussions are underway for a joint French/Australian satellite mission following a partnership between the University of New South Wales Canberra and Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales, the French space agency.  

The tie-up was announced at the International Astronautical Congress in Adelaide. Under the agreement UNSW Canberra and CNES will form a space mission design partnership in Canberra, which is expected to fast-track Australia’s ability to deliver world-class space technology and innovation.

“Thanks to our partnership with CNES, UNSW Canberra will host Australia’s first concurrent design facility by the end of the year,” said UNSW Canberra rector Michael Frater. “We partnered with CNES to incorporate their software and training withinthis facility. Having this top level agreement means that UNSW Canberra is highly regarded internationally, and will see us leading Australia’s space economy.”

UNSW Canberra and the ACT government will jointly fund the space mission design facility. CNES is already involved in bilateral space missions with NASA, the European Space Agency, the Indian Space Research Organisation and JAXA, with the partnership with the UNSW Canberra expected to lead to similar collaboration. UNSW Canberra Space director Russell Boyce said the facility would provide the infrastructure to capture the critical design elements of a space mission.

 “At its heart, this partnership is all about bringing together the right people in the same place to design a space mission,” he said. “The world-class CNES software enables us to go toe-totoe with other agencies.” ACT chief minister Andrew Barr said the ACT government was happy to part-fund the initiative as it would help create a “space ecosystem” in Canberra. It also builds on an earlier cooperation announced at IAC in Adelaide earlier in the week between the ACT, South Australian and NT governments.

The Australian and French governments signed a joint statement in March this year in which they expressed their intention to cooperate more closely in the radio astronomy and space science sectors. Earlier this week the French space agency also signed an agreement with Adelaide-based space startup Fleet.

Under the strategic collaboration, CNES will track and support Fleet’s first nanosatellites once launched. The UNSW Canberra and CNES agreement complements another UNSW Canberra agreement, announced earlier this week, to utilise spacecraft test facilities at the ANU’s Advanced Instrumentation Technology Centre.

 Cooperation between all three institutes means that Australia can now provide a complete suite of end-to-end capability in conceiving, designing, building, testing and operating space missions. An announcement planned for Friday is expected to detail further collaboration by CNES, UNSW, ANU and the Australian government on a proposed space mission. Geoff Long