Australian Space Agency signs agreement with Thales and EOS Space System

As part of an ongoing effort to grow the local space sector over the next 10 years.
Written by Aimee Chanthadavong, Contributor

The Australian Space Agency has signed an agreement with French satellite company Thales and Australian-based space tracking firm EOS Space System in a bid to further grow the local space sector.

The statement of strategic intent and cooperation with the two companies are what Minister for Industry, Science, and Technology Karen Andrews has referred to as the next steps to "create opportunities for Australian industry and new local jobs".

"Space is very much an international game and for Australia to succeed we need to play to our strengths and have our businesses and researchers working cooperatively," she said.

"This statement is designed to mutually identify key areas of investment, as well as potential research, development, and commercial opportunities."

According to Andrews, the agreement with Thales will give Australian businesses such as advanced manufacturers the chance to build and develop the sector with the satellite supplier.

See also: NASA teams with engineering, 3D printing companies for moon mission (TechRepublic)

Meanwhile, under the agreement, EOS will expand its network of laser ranging sensors -- which currently operates at Mt Stromlo, Australian Capital Territory and Learmonth, Western Australia -- across the country by increasing the volume of space objects it tracks from 10,000 to 100,000 each week. 

"This statement will assist Australia to grow its world-leading capabilities in space situational awareness and debris monitoring and space communications," EOS Space Systems CEO Craig Smith said. 

The joint statements form part of the Australian government's Australian Civil Space Strategy, a 10-year plan aimed at tripling the size of Australia's space sector and grow an additional 20,000 jobs by 2030 that was announced in April.

The Australian government said it would invest an initial AU$41 million, four-year investment to stand up the strategy back in 2018.

This funding was further bolstered during the 2019-20 Federal Budget that saw the sector gain an additional AU$19.5 million to be used over four years to set up a Space Infrastructure Fund to support projects aimed at accelerating Australia's space industry.

UTS to take cancer research into space

University of Technology, Sydney (UTS) has announced that as part of Australia's first space research mission to the International Space Station (ISS) it will carry out research on how some of the most aggressive cancer cells, such as ovarian, breast, nose, and lung, will cope in space.

Scheduled to take place in April, the experiment comes off the back of initial research that was carried out by UTS researcher Joshua Chou.

As part of his research, Chou tested the reaction of cancer cells in a zero-gravity chamber. The test showed that 80-90% of cancer cells were disabled.

"We're ready to verify if the cells do the same thing in space. My hope is to confirm what we found in the lab and be able to identify new targets and introduce a drug that 'tricks' the cancer cell into thinking it's in space when it's actually still on Earth," he said.

"My vision is that this drug would work alongside existing treatments to improve treatment timespan and efficiency. It would not be a magic bullet, but it could give current treatments like chemotherapy a big enough boost to kill the disease."

The university said it will use hardware, a bio-module, produce by German-based company Yuri to carry the cells into space.

It added that the two organisations will work together to expand the research and to commercialise the application.

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