January 16, 2021

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Australia lunar exploration mission launched

A South Australia-based satellite start-up has successfully launched Australia’s first lunar exploration mission, the Seven Sisters mission, marking a major milestone in the development of the nation’s space capabilities supporting NASA’s Artemis missions and future lunar resource exploration operations.

Seven Sisters is the Australian Lunar Exploration Mission to send nanosatellites and exploration sensors to the Moon to search for abundant, accessible water and resources in 2023, supporting NASA’s Artemis Program.

Led by a world-class consortium of space, industry and research leaders, Seven Sisters is a purpose-driven mission of discovery. The start-up, along with several of its industry partners, the University of Adelaide, UNSW and more are already developing advanced technologies that will transform space exploration.

With the start-up’s Centauri constellation already operating in Low Earth Orbit and the first generation of prototype probes being deployed and tested this summer, the mission is already proving hardware and space systems for future use on the Moon and Mars. The company’s satellites are already in space and its consortium members have proven capabilities in the most demanding environments on Earth.

A key goal of the Seven Sisters Program is to secure Australia’s place as a specialist leader in space exploration by 2030. This inspirational, high-impact Australian mission will leverage the existing private investment in Australian space technology, as well as Australia’s core strengths in remote operations, communications and exploration.

Developing an exceptionally strong Australian space sector will create thousands of high-technology jobs along the way.

Seven Sisters Mission Director added that this is the space race Australia can win. Ultimately, the nation is seeking footholds on these new worlds. In-situ resource utilisation is key to having permanent bases on the Moon, Mars and beyond.

South Australian Premier stated that the program was a fantastic example of the capability of South Australia’s space industry to collaborate on the kind of major space exploration projects that will secure the state’s place in the global space race.

The start-up has reached tremendous heights since it was established in Adelaide, cementing itself as a major player in the state’s booming space industry. This program shows how vital collaboration within the industry is to the national success in this emerging sector.

The Seven Sisters name is inspired by the star cluster known as the Seven Sisters or the Pleiades, which represents an important story of Seven Sisters in both Aboriginal star dreaming stories and in Ancient Greek mythology. The Seven Sisters were the companions of Artemis, and this name was chosen as Australia embarks on a companion mission to NASA’s Artemis Program: to land the first woman and next man on the Moon by 2024.

Seven Sisters is developing new resource exploration techniques for Earth, the Moon and Mars. These tools will help NASA identify viable deposits of water and other resources more efficiently. Ultimately, this work will underpin further exploration throughout our solar system.

Using massive arrays of sensors on the lunar surface to generate rich images of subsurface water and mineralisation, Artemis will be equipped with the data it needs to make prudent decisions ahead of robotic and human exploration.

The Director of the Australian Centre for Space Engineering Research (ACSER) explained that the country is a world leader in mining engineering research and automation. It has the largest resources companies and it makes a lot of sense for our young space industry to concentrate on an area of Australian strength. The Seven Sisters mission offers a real opportunity to leverage strong Australian technology to promote human endeavours on the moon.

Back on Earth, cutting-edge space technology developed through the Seven Sisters Mission will be utilised for terrestrial exploration, renewing Australia’s resource industry on Earth with new opportunities. These new techniques are already being trialled in South Australia as part of the Accelerated Discovery Initiative.

With the paramount importance of STEM to this future industry in Australia, The Seven Sisters Explorers Program was also announced, a chance for Australian students and graduates interested in geoscience, engineering, computer science and robotics to join this mission to the moon.

Explorers will gain access to new roles, take part in terrestrial geoscience missions, cutting-edge analysis and inspirational space engineering programs.