Q-CTRL and Fleet to develop quantum sensing tech for space exploration

The two Australian startups will focus on quantum control engineering to enable new applications in quantum sensing.

Q-CTRL has teamed up with Fleet Space Technologies to develop quantum sensing and navigation technologies for space exploration.

The two Australian startups have paired off as a result of their involvement in the Seven Sisters space industry consortium, which was founded by Fleet.

The consortium comprises Australian firms and academic institutions focused on developing advanced exploration technologies for Earth, the Moon, and Mars.

See also: 6 space missions to look forward to in 2021 (TechRepublic)

The technologies they develop will be used by uncrewed lunar missions by the consortium.

The missions will kick off in 2023. They're designed to find accessible water and other resources in support of NASA's Artemis program to land the first woman and next man on the Moon by 2024, and create a sustainable human presence for later crewed Martian exploration.

South Australia's Premier Steven Marshall has thrown his support behind the initiative.

"This groundbreaking application of autonomous quantum sensors in space exploration will be invaluable in leveraging extraterrestrial resources to establish permanent human bases on the Moon, Mars and beyond," he said. "It demonstrates Australia's growing global leadership in both the quantum and space industries, establishing a solid foundation for future economic growth."

Q-CTRL, a commercial spinoff from the University of Sydney, will work alongside the nanosatellite startup on applications including remote detection of liquid water and mineral deposits through quantum-based gravity detection and magnetic field sensors.

See also: Australia's ambitious plan to win the quantum race

Quantum-enhanced precision navigation and timing (PNT) will also be deployed to provide guidance for long-endurance missions with limited telemetry contact, Q-CTRL added.

Q-CTRL partnered with AI-based navigation hardware firm Advanced Navigation in July to further work on PNT.

"Our focus on quantum control engineering is enabling new applications in quantum sensing that were previously impossible. Quantum control is enabling small form factors, enhanced robustness, and the necessary autonomy to meet the strict requirements of uncrewed space applications," Q-CTRL CEO Michael J. Biercuk said. "Quantum-control-defined sensors give us the ability to provide valuable new geospatial intelligence services -- whether on Earth or on celestial bodies."

Q-CTRL plans to leverage its work with the space consortium to offer new commercial applications of geospatial intelligence for defence, finance, and climate change mitigation.

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