Australian space engineering company Saber Astronautics has today unveiled four projects it will be taking to the International Space Station (ISS) in 2024 and 2025, ranging from research into human reproduction right through to getting sloshed in orbit.
Announced this week, Adelaide, Sydney and Colorado-based Saber has accepted the first round of projects based on their manufacturing potential and longer-term capabilities in various fields such as health, food production and future sustainable space access.
The project teams will participate in a series of workshops starting in February at Sydney space incubator Wolfpack Space Hub in order to get ‘flight ready’ for private space company Axiom Space’s trips to the ISS in 2024 and 2025.
The four projects are part of Saber’s Australian Astronaut Project - one that is opening the door for researchers to access the laboratory aboard the ISS.
The company says successful projects are aiming to build new products in a diverse range of industries, with the ISS offering ‘unparalleled’ advanced manufacturing and research opportunities for space scientists.
“We are impressed by the innovation and creativity in the proposals and are excited to see the potential they can have on the future of space exploration and on Earth,” Saber CEO Dr. Jason Held said.
“There are more projects signing up and we want to give the best opportunity for industry to make the most of this exciting opportunity. ’’
The four projects are as follows:
Developing sustainable, productive space crops
The first project will see Plants for Space (P4S) and the University of Adelaide team up to develop on-demand food and pharmaceutical production for space applications.
Run by Professor Matthew Gilliham and Associate Professor Jenny Mortimer, in collaboration with the Centre of Excellence P4S team, the project’s goal is to enable humans to thrive in space by developing new plant forms.
According to Saber, this project will test the growth of a potential space crop - Australian duckweed - in the ‘challenging’ conditions of the ISS.
“This will support the development of sustainable, productive crops both for Space, and also for controlled environment and remote agriculture here on Earth,” Saber said.
Studying the impacts of space on frozen mice embryos, eggs and sperm
IVF Australia, Virtus Health, 23strands, the University of Melbourne and the University of Technology Sydney have all come together on this project - the results of which may concern the future of humanity and space exploration.
Saber believes the project may direct future human exploration of distant planets, and will assess the possible effects of space radiation and microgravity on frozen mice embryos, eggs and sperm.
In particular, those involved in the research will be developing new systems for stable long-term storage of the human reproduction components.
“We hope that this will be a crucial benefit to all those undergoing fertility treatment now on earth,” Saber added.
Repairing metals in space
Saber, alongside NSW additive manufacturing and 3D printing company TITOMIC - which has previously partnered with Gold Coast rocket maker Gilmour Space - will be developing and testing a self-contained, minituraised device for in-space metal repair.
This ‘cold spray’ will use supersonic particle deposition to provide in-service repairs that will be critical to ongoing space missions - something that will become more relevant as trips off-planet become commonplace.
According to Saber, this project will develop and show the feasibility of the cold spray, and will avoid prohibitive heat exposure issues caused by traditional methods while producing long-term repair capability.
Space beer for astronauts
Though perhaps not as crucial as growing crops in space and seeing if we can send embryos on interstellar voyages, the final project on Saber’s list is a little taste of home amongst the stars.
The space beer - a joint venture between the 4-Pines Brewing Company and Saber - will be a world first…maybe even a galactic first too!
If there’s anything astronauts might need after spending hours tending to space crops, repairing the space ship, and caring for frozen embryos, it’s definitely a nice cold beer. Aussie innovation at its finest.
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