Dr Kimberley Clayfield
Director of Space Technology Future Science Platform, CSIRO

Kimberley’s story

As a kid, Kimberley was inspired by rovers on Mars, deep space probes to the distant planets, and images from the Hubble Space Telescope of faraway galaxies. She knew she wanted to work in the space industry. The problem was, she was interested in everything, from science and technology to policy and space medicine. In the end, it was an astronaut on the radio who inspired her to start by studying mechanical engineering. Since then, Kimberley has built an incredible career covering nearly every aspect of the sector.

Kimberley is now the director of CSIRO’s Space Technology Future Science Platform. In her role, Kimberley works with over 140 researchers from CSIRO and other organisations. Kimberley oversees dozens of projects that aim to turn science fiction into science fact.

“It's a dedicated program to develop cutting-edge research and technology. We hope it will lead to future public good and commercial opportunities for the Australian space sector,” Kimberley says. “New things that we hope can give our industry a competitive edge into the future.”

Several of the projects relate to human space travel. Two examples are growing food in microgravity and improving the longevity of packaged foods. These are problems we need to solve before we can go to Mars. Another project is developing a novel experimental device to study human cells in microgravity.

Other projects look at using high-bandwidth optical and terahertz frequencies to communicate between spacecraft, and pulsar signals to generate secure data encryption. Another team is looking at how we can extract and use resources on the Moon and Mars. And other projects are developing advanced miniaturised satellite components like imaging sensors and solar arrays.

“Some of these are well outside the scope of what I imagined when I started studying mechanical engineering,” Kimberley says. Needless to say, she loves her job. “It’s that sense of adventure. There’s still so much that’s unknown. There’s still room for people to make exciting discoveries.”

Kimberley’s journey

  • Kimberley studied an undergraduate degree followed by a PhD in mechanical engineering at the University of Adelaide.
  • During her PhD, Kimberley also completed the International Space University’s Space Studies Program, majoring in space law and policy. Kimberley completed the ISU’s Executive MBA in 2012.
  • In 2005, Kimberley joined the Department of Industry’s space policy section. Here she co-authored a proposal that led to the Australian Space Research Program in 2009.
  • Then in 2008, Kimberley joined CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency, as Executive Manager Space Sciences and Technology. This encompassed activities ranging from establishing remote sensing capability development programs to supporting the international Square Kilometre Array radio telescope project.
  • Kimberley has been Leader of the CSIRO Space Technology Future Science Platform since its establishment in 2018.
  • Kimberley has won a number of space industry awards. In 2014 she became the first Australian to win the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Lawrence Sperry Award.
  • Kimberley serves on a number of advisory boards and committees within the space industry. She was also the Program Director for the South Australian Space School and National Space Camp Woomera for over a decade.