WA joins the space race

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// These days, a new space race is on among private companies to make spaceflight more accessible, and fill some profitable niches.

Historically, the space race was between the United States and the Soviet Union in the Cold War, culminating in the US landing on the moon in 1969. These days, it’s very different, has gone private and is not out of the reach of local startups.

An interesting isotope

One interesting development is demand for Helium-3, an isotope of regular Helium, found on the Moon.

Helium-3 is currently used for neutron detection, with possible uses in cryogenics, medical imaging, and fusion energy. However, it is incredibly rare. There are no natural reserves available and it is only produced as a byproduct of tritium, an isotope of hydrogen used in hydrogen bombs and fusion reactors.

There is a solution however. The Moon has natural reserves of Helium-3 that can be mined. Which is exactly what WA startup Space Industries is aiming to do.

Helium-3 can be mined from the moon (Source: Space.com)

Space Industries is currently developing their Resource Extraction Vehicle (REV), which is designed to be deployed onto the lunar surface to extract the Helium-3, then return to the lunar lander for processing and return to Earth.

Mechanical Engineer Josh Letcher – a semi finalist in the Australian Technology Competition – told Startup News that his company is preparing to build a demonstration vehicle by December this year, as well as conducting tests to demonstrate the resource extraction method. They aim to have their rover ready for launch by 2030.

The REV is projected to launch by 2030 (Source: Space Industries)

A new space precinct

And Josh is not just working on that one space project either.

“Space Industries are different to other space startups as we have a full end to end mission complete with commercial viability with customers, other than our mission which is on the level of a national capability is the development of Australia’s first dedicated space precinct,” Josh told us.

“The Western Australia Space Precinct (WASP) is a facility that will enable startups and SME’s the same facilities of a space prime and comes with many advantages such as being able to design, develop, build and operate all machines from the one location.”

Josh Letcher

The precinct is a to be built near Perth airport and will support other space startups achieve their goals. A 2,281 square metre building will contain a command and control centre for robotic vehicles off Earth, a project test facility, and a simulation of the lunar and martian surfaces for rover testing.

Space Industries have secured 60,000 square metres of land for the precinct, and have entered an agreement with a Perth based developer that will construct the first building.

Numerous companies and startups have expressed their support for this project, and given that it will be the first dedicated space precinct in Australia, it will likely draw in more startups from across Australia and the region.

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For more, visit Space Industries.

Main image source: Space Industries’ artist’s impression of the Space Precinct.