Australian national university's (ANU) MT stromlo observatory - Translating between astronomical instrumentation technologies and space systems applications via an integrated applications group

Naomi Mathers, Roger Franzen

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review


    The Australian National University (ANU) Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics (RSAA) has a proven record of converting the complex scientific requirements of Astronomers into the physical reality of precision instrumentation. This has required the establishment, and the maintenance, of a substantial multi-discipline engineering capability. This strong foundation has allowed the RSSA to diversify and embrace the opportunities of an emerging space industry in Australia. In 2003, catastrophic brush fires destroyed the laboratories and fabrication facilities that formed much of the engineering capacity at RSAA. The construction of a new facility provided a unique opportunity to conceive a centre that capitalises on existing expertise and provides a focus for innovation and integrated applications. In 2006, Australia began a process of investment in a 10% share of the Giant Magellan Telescope project and by 2009, government funds were awarded to expand the new facilities still further but now with an additional objective of achieving sustainable capability and capacity despite the infrequency of astronomical projects. Modern terrestrial based astronomical instruments are highly sophisticated, utilising cryogenically cooled foca) plane arrays operating inside evacuated cryostats, exotic materials, complex processes and high reliability precision integration and test processes. With the exception of minimising weight and verifying structural integrity during the vibration of a launch ascent, these are closely similar capabilities and technologies applied to the development of space based instrumentation and systems. This important realisation precipitated a transformation of the engineering processes adopted by the RSAA Technical Program. Strong emphasis has been placed upon the professionalisation of the Technical Program and the utilisation of structured processes for financial management, project management, systems engineering and quality management. The RSAA actively sought and captured participation in supporting space projects as varied as a satellite to deliver broadband communication to Antarctica, sensors to measure greenhouse gases and the development of a plasma thruster. This multipurpose investment strategy is a sound model for emerging space nations to expand capability and develop a strong skill base. Within Australia it is stimulating collaboration and innovation and giving students and young professionals practical experience. The journey is not yet complete but already considerable operational gains have been realised and these will be discussed. Australia is now also a competent partner for international space missions.

    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publication63rd International Astronautical Congress 2012, IAC 2012
    Number of pages7
    Publication statusPublished - 2012
    Event63rd International Astronautical Congress 2012, IAC 2012 - Naples, Italy
    Duration: 1 Oct 20125 Oct 2012

    Publication series

    NameProceedings of the International Astronautical Congress, IAC
    ISSN (Print)0074-1795


    Conference63rd International Astronautical Congress 2012, IAC 2012


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