Space Machines Company secures $8.5m grant as part of new Indian space partnership

Space Machines Company secures $8.5m grant as part of new Indian space partnership

Photo credit: SpaceX via Unsplash

Adelaide-based Space Machines Company has scored $8.5 million from the Australian Space Agency as part of a new collaboration with the Indian aerospace industry that is aiming to improve the sector’s management of space debris and deliver sustainable space future.

The newly announced Space MAITRI (Mission for Australia-India’s Technology, Research and Innovation), a joint industry-led Australian-Indian mission, could see Space Machines deliver the largest ever Australian spacecraft at around 500kg, and it could be the first Australian payload to fly on an Indian rocket as a dedicated launch. 

The Australian Space Agency grant is part of an $18 million investment by the federal government-backed space agency under the International Space Investment India Projects program.

Perth-based LatConnect 60 also has been awarded almost $5.8 million to develop and build a low Earth orbit satellite to collect information on carbon emissions, with the satellite set for launch from India.

In the same round, Canberra’s Skykraft has been granted $3.7 million to propose and validate a new position, navigation and timing system to better connect large-scale satellite constellations.

Space Machines Company, which has a manufacturing base in Sydney, is leading the Space MAITRI mission to demonstrate technologies to make space sustainable amid a rapid increase of space debris posing increasing risks to space missions.

The company, which launched its Optimus orbital servicing vehicle aboard a SpaceX rocket last month, says raising awareness, mitigating debris and improving in-space services are critical to the future of the space industry.

Space Machines is partnering with Digantara and Ananth Technologies for the Space MAITRI mission.

Digantara brings to the program its proprietary optical sensor which is tailored to image and track resident space objects in low Earth orbit, while Ananth Technologies will contribute engineering expertise and access to cleanroom facilities for integration and testing.

Space MAITRI plans to incorporate this technology with Space Machines’ Australian-built orbital servicing vehicle on future missions launched from India on an Indian Space Research Organisation rocket.

The mission is aimed at showcasing advanced manufacturing, artificial intelligence and sustainability technologies through a close space-sector supply chain and research partnership between the two nations.

“As an Australian-Indian, I’m especially proud that the Sanskrit word MAITRI, meaning friendship and goodwill, encapsulates the spirit of this pioneering international collaboration,” says Rajat Kulshrestha, the CEO and co-founder of Space Machines Company. 

“Space MAITRI will allow Space Machines Company to take the next step on its ambitious journey and build a further vehicle at its facility in Botany Sydney in partnership with Australian and Indian organisations.

“Our vision is to provide long-term ‘roadside assistance in space’, where spacecraft are repaired, refuelled, refurbished, recycled and removed at the end of life.

“By combining Australian innovation with Indian spaceflight heritage, we’ll make important strides in ensuring a safe and sustainable orbital environment for future space activities.”

Kulshrestha adds that the collaboration will also advance the company’s mission to protect the orbital environment while fostering commercial opportunities that benefit both nations.

The latest $18 million round of federal government grants for the International Space Investment India Projects follows last year’s announcement that Australia would help track India’s historic landing on the South Pole of the Moon and support its upcoming Gaganyaan human space flight mission.

“Australia and India are enduring strategic partners, and by working together in space we can strengthen our relationship while also delivering outcomes that will benefit our nations and region more broadly,” says Federal Minister for Industry and Science Ed Husic.

“These projects emphasise the role space science can play in enhancing cooperation in our region for mutual benefit.”

Australian Space Agency boss Enrico Palermo also notes that India’s commercial space sector is “rapidly growing, propelled forward by historic feats like becoming the first nation to successfully land on the South Pole of the Moon”.

“By investing in these collaborative projects, we can further strengthen the relationship between our space sectors and unlock opportunities for Australian organisations to develop even more joint projects and missions with India into the future,” says Palermo.

“Australia has unique competitive advantages to offer in Earth observation, communications technologies and services, and robotics and automation. We also have the capacity to contribute to and learn from India’s human space flight ambitions, particularly in space health and life sciences.”

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