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UNSW Partners with ispace to Accelerate a Lunar Economy

By Doug Messier
Parabolic Arc
January 3, 2021
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HAKUTO-R lander. (Credit: ispace)

SYDNEY, Australia (UNSW Sydney PR) — UNSW Sydney has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Japanese lunar exploration company ispace, to jointly pursue research and development in space resources and infrastructure.

The MoU will enable UNSW and ispace to work together on areas of common interest, including technology development and space missions. UNSW students and staff could also participate in exchange programs.

Director of the Australian Centre for Space Engineering Research (ACSER) at UNSW, Professor Andrew Dempster, said the partnership with ispace is a natural fit for UNSW Engineering.

“As society becomes more reliant on satellites for a range of industries including communications, agriculture, transport, defence and more, the future of humans in space is heavily reliant on their ability to use resources in space. UNSW and ispace share this understanding and both believe the key to doing this is applying mining engineering discipline knowledge to space projects, and getting these two industries to talk to each other,” Prof. Dempster said.

ACSER and ispace are developing technology to tap water resources on the moon and start a space-based economy. If water, and therefore oxygen, can be extracted from the moon, humans could potentially spend more time in space to support and improve space infrastructure. Hydrogen from water could also be used along with oxygen for rocket fuel, to reduce the cost of longer or deeper space expeditions and discovery missions.

Prof. Dempster and Professor Serkan Saydam of UNSW’s School of Minerals and Energy Resources Engineering have been working on space resources for the past seven years. The pair leads project Wilde, which is determining how we can process water that resides in the permanently shadowed craters at moon’s poles. They believe it is technically possible and will be economically viable.

Prof. Saydam, an internationally renowned specialist in off-Earth mining operations, said partnering with ispace will accelerate UNSW’s work, including the development of its space resources missions.

“To achieve our goal to mine water on the moon, a raft of factors needs to be considered. In addition to the technology, we need to have the right legal frameworks, ethics, government policies and environmental standards in place. ispace shares this holistic approach to our work and I am excited about what we may achieve together,” he said.

Prof. Saydam and PhD student Sophia Casanova are working with Dr Carlos Espejel at ispace to create a new space mining code – LORS-101 (Lunar Ore Reserves Standards 101) – for reporting lunar exploration results, resources and reserves.

Dr Espejel said ispace chose UNSW as a key partner to help realise its vision to create a lunar economy underpinned by use of space resources. He said he hopes the partners can jointly accelerate the technology and know-how necessary for space exploration, space transport and space resources utilisation.

UNSW and ispace will also work together on aspects of the federal government and Australian Space Agency’s Moon to Mars initiative, including scientific investigation using mineral and other substances of the moon.

Profs. Dempster and Saydam have been long-term advocates of Australians mining in space and believe space resources is an area where Australia should be looking to have an advantage by exploiting its large mining companies, strong mining engineering research, and leading mine automation.

“Mining is the niche Australia can have in space, and it’s potentially a trillion-dollar industry. We have the opportunity to make this happen,” Professor Dempster said.

4 responses to “UNSW Partners with ispace to Accelerate a Lunar Economy”

  1. Luke Franck says:

    Gonna make a comment & hopefully it doesn’t make anyone want to punch me. I think this type of international cooperation is just great! Humans, collectively speaking, are pretty much all in the same boat. Evolve into a Type II Civilization or else.

    When it comes to the people of Japan, I’ve heard a wide array of comments. Some people just don’t get it though. Only one Nation on Earth has tasted Nukes, unfortunate. At the same time, a testament to the Samuri Spirit. The Knights of Bushido came close to slaying a Dragon. Its a sad past, almost everyone lost.

    What I’ve seen & read, makes me believe that the Japanese & Western Nations have reconciled the past & can move forward together, going after the prize (Type II Status).

    • P.K. Sink says:

      Yes…Japan makes a much better democracy than they did a military dictatorship. I wish China could learn that lesson without a lot of bloodshed. But…probably not.
      Meanwhile…I still want to punch you…

      • Luke Franck says:

        I wish “the West”, Western Empire, whatever you call this Pax Americana group, would give better signals. Even we, its loyal chattle, have little idea what to expect. One day we seem capable of more then just, silly games on Petri Dish Earth. And the next, Newspapers print stories of Magic Bullets & Company Policy rules the day.
        She is not an easy Mistress to serve, let alone get in bed with. I am not sure how all that is gonna pan out. Hopefully, East or West, we come to same conclusion, best not to foul our own nest & seek better opportunities & knowledge off world.

        • P.K. Sink says:

          Yup…human nature ain’t a pretty picture. An honest look at history shows that in stark detail. But a Western style of political checks and balances seems to be our best bet for a better future.

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