The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) is allocating $35 million in funding to space technology and artificial intelligence, via its Future Science Platforms (FSP) portfolio.
According to CSIRO, space technology will receive $16 million in funding, with researchers tasked with identifying and developing the science to “leapfrog traditional technologies and find new areas for Australian industry to work in”.
Researchers will initially focus on advanced technologies for earth observation, along with space object tracking, resource utilisation in space, and developing manufacturing and life support systems for missions to the moon and Mars.
Dr Larry Marshall, CEO of CSIRO, said the Future Science Platforms bring together Australia’s expertise across all science, technology, engineering, and maths fields to “deliver real solutions to real world problems”.
“Our Future Science Platforms aim to turn Australia’s challenges into opportunities where new science can break through seemingly impossible roadblocks to give Australia an unfair advantages on the world stage,” he said.
“CSIRO is here to solve Australia’s greatest challenges through innovative science and technology, and to do that we have to invest in the big thinking and breakthrough research that will keep us ahead of the curve.”
Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, meanwhile, will be allocated $19 million in funding.
According to the CSIRO, primary research areas will include platforms to improve prediction and understanding of complex data; platforms to enable trustworthy inferences and risk-based decisions; and data systems to enable ethical, robust and scalable AI.
Researchers will also be tasked with developing AI-driven solutions for issues such as food quality and security, health and wellbeing, sustainable energy and resources, and Australian and regional security.
Among the other FSPs are deep earth imaging, active integrated matter, environomics, hydrogen energy systems, and synthetic biology.
The investment into space technology follows the release of CSIRO’s ‘Space Roadmap’ in September, which identified three key areas of opportunity for Australia in the space sector.
The first is space derived services, or using space data and satellite communications to grow downstream commercial applications, such as using earth observation data for the likes of environmental monitoring and assessment.
The second is space object tracking, or leveraging Australia’s geographic position to “nurture commercial opportunities” for tracking and monitoring space objects to reduce the risk of collision and damage to space infrastructure, while the third is space exploration and utilisation, building on the country’s strengths across various industries to apply new tech and systems to the challenges of robotic and human space exploration.
It has been a big year for Australia’s space sector, with the Australian Space Agency launching in July.
Dr Megan Clark, head of the Agency, wrote at the time that Australia’s will be one of the most industry-focused space agencies in the world.
“No other industry can inspire nations quite like space, where human ambition can set its sights on interplanetary missions, colonisation beyond Earth and the opportunity of finding new life. We can dream this big because of the space-based technologies that have connected the world in unprecedented ways, and in the coming decades Australia has the opportunity to become a global leader in pushing Earth’s links with space even further,” she wrote.
Image source: CSIRO.