Australia's Moon to Mars Trailblazers
Lunar Outpost, EPE chosen for Moon resource extraction rover Metal Tech News - March 23, 2023
Last updated 4/16/2023 at 7:12am
Foreseeing the importance of a presence in space, the Minister for Industry and Science, Australian parliament member Ed Husic, along with dignitaries from the Australian Space Agency and NASA, announced the EPE and Lunar Outpost Oceania consortium as one of two successful groups to receive stage-one funding under Australia's Moon to Mars Trailblazer Initiative.
The Trailblazer program was launched in late 2021 as part of the Moon to Mars Initiative, which seeks to progress Australian space exploration with remotely operated and autonomous robotic lunar assets.
The first stage of the Trailblazer program sought collaborative groups to receive up to A$4 million (US$2.7 million) to develop a rover to go through to preliminary design review. Based on that review, a single group would then further develop its rover through to launch and operation on the Moon.
Aimed at being the first mission to autonomously identify, excavate, and process resources on the lunar surface, the Trailblazer consortium will be co-led by Lunar Outpost and EPE (formerly Explosive Protective Equipment), which will design critical autonomous lunar mobility and resource excavation and processing solutions for the Moon to Mars Initiative.
U.S.-based Lunar Outpost has been rocketing to the forefront of space exploration tech with its commercial planetary mobility innovations and its significant experience leading multiple sublunar space missions for NASA's Artemis program.
You can read about Lunar Outpost's bold first move at The priceless precedent of a $1 Moon rock in the December 9, 2020 edition of Metal Tech News.
EPE is a Queensland-based company that specializes in robotics, autonomous systems, system integration, and translation of technology in collaboration with Australian research and defense organizations.
With its beginnings in counter-improvised explosive device solutions, which spread into chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear defense, EPE has built leading expertise in the fields of robotics and autonomous systems, artificial intelligence and machine learning, as well as many other technologies that help improve specialization for specialists.
In the first stage of the Initiative, the group will focus on the design and development of a lunar rover to operate within the Moon's unique environment. This will leverage Lunar Outpost's experience and capabilities in autonomous lunar mobility and excavation solutions.
The lunar rover will then be tasked to collect lunar rock and regolith for delivery to a NASA science in-situ resource utilization (ISRU) facility for the U.S. space agency to attempt extracting oxygen from the samples.
"With Trailblazer, our consortium will work with the Australian Space Agency to redefine resource extraction and utilisation," said Lunar Outpost CEO Justin Cyrus. "Trailblazer is a unique opportunity to not only utilise resources from another planetary body but also to bring that novel technology back here to Earth to guide mining into a carbon-neutral future; all in pursuit of taking mining and heavy industry into space in the years to come."
Coupling Lunar Outpost's sublunar mobility expertise with EPE's extensive experience in uncrewed ground vehicles (UGV), autonomous operations, and sensor integrations will accelerate efforts to take advantage of innovation in the space domain to deliver measurable improvements to Australian national security and the sustainability of the mining industry on Earth.
"This is an unparalleled opportunity for the development of sovereign capability in Australia's space industry," said EPE Managing Director Warwick Penrose. "Together with co-lead Lunar Outpost, we're excited to contribute to the Initiative our many years of experience testing, deploying and operating UGVs in remote and hostile environments, and leveraging the significant capability of our consortium partners to help develop a global competitive advantage for Australia within an international space exploration program."
The EPE and Lunar Outpost consortium's partner organizations include BHP, Northrop Grumman Australia, RMIT University's Space Industry Hub, and the University of Melbourne's Space Laboratory.
Furthermore, the University of Adelaide, Inovor, Australian National University, Element Robotics, Colorado School of Mines, and Saber Astronautics will provide specialist contributions.