Australia’s competitive strengths in space manufacturing are creating great potential for industry. By delivering on this vision, Australian businesses can meet strategic national needs in space and defence, and produce quality goods and services for a growing global market.
As Australia builds its space manufacturing capability, manufacturers will need to draw on best practice from around the world, utilise new technologies to design and manufacture faster, collaborate with partners overseas to build skills and capabilities, and focus on those areas where Australia has strengths, a gap or need or an area of strategic interest.
The taskforce identified an initial set of manufacturing capabilities that need to be lifted across the ecosystem in order to achieve the vision over the lifespan of the Modern Manufacturing Strategy. Capabilities were mapped using small satellites and related launch capability as a focal point, but with flexibility to accommodate critical space applications that will emerge over the next 10 years. They fall along the space value chain and will be critical to achieving this vision.
To lift space manufacturing capability, 4 distinct phases and recommended areas of focus have been identified:
- design phase: designing products and services that support space activities
- build phase: building components and products for space applications
- qualify phase: developing capabilities to quality assure and qualify their manufactured products, components and services for use in space
- access space and operate phase: growing capabilities to operate and sustain products and services in space and access to space through Australian launch capability.
Australian manufacturers’ capabilities in designing products and services that support space endeavours.
Investment in this phase of space manufacturing can lead to adopting new tools for activities such as simulating, hardware in the loop testing, modelling, and prototyping products that go into space, such as small satellites. It will help increase efficiency in the manufacturing process and achieve higher quality outputs.
Australian expertise in commercialising R&D for space is a key strength, and presents an area of high value‑add and employment opportunity. Design is often the most complicated part of space manufacturing and requires highly specialised skills.
Activities in the design phase include systems engineering to determine requirements of the various subsystems required for a spacecraft, and electrical, software, and mechanical engineering.
Domestic capability in this area allows Australian companies to retain their IP, which is necessary for customers with high security requirements. Industry have also articulated the importance of manufacturers and designers working closely together through the iterative processes of design, manufacture and testing.
Recommended areas of focus for the design phase are:
- improving know‑how in space simulation and modelling tools
- improving rapid prototyping capabilities
- supporting advanced materials development for space operations
- design and feasibility studies for space missions and payloads.
Australian manufacturers’ capabilities to build subsystems and components for critical space applications.
Investment in this phase can help space manufacturers access the tools, machines, and technologies required to build critical subsystems and components for space applications, such as small satellites.
The build phase of space manufacturing is broad, and can range from 3D printing payloads to radiation hardening of materials for space flight, or production of high‑energy density batteries. This also involves integrating component sub‑systems to work together.
The demands of space are extreme, including radiation, gravitational forces and extreme temperatures. This means that many components must be built to an incredibly high standard of quality and precision. Space manufacturing often requires machinery that is more specialised than for other non‑space applications. Where a company invests in a specific machining capability, they must also invest in the skills for operation.
Industry consultation indicates manufacturers want to better understand the needs of their space customers to ensure the build phase is high‑quality and fit‑for‑purpose. Where manufacturers look to spin‑in from adjacent industries, they must understand the demands of space manufacturing and upgrade their capabilities. High quality and highly‑efficient manufacturing allows manufacturers to scale up their capabilities and more quickly raise their TRLs.
Recommended areas of focus for the build phase are:
- improving know‑how in automating manufacturing activities
- improving quality assurance and product assurance
- improving capability in additive manufacturing and systems integration
- improving capability in precision manufacturing
- improving capability in light weight structures and pressure vessels
- improving capability in avionics and subsystem manufacturing including underlying PCBs and mechanical components.
Australian manufacturers’ capabilities to quality assure and qualify their manufactured products, components and services for use in space.
Investment in this phase can lead to new facilities and adoption of specialist tools to help space manufacturers prove their products are fully qualified for use in harsh extraterrestrial environments.
Given the high standard required of space manufacturers, qualification is an integral part of the manufacturing process. Components and sub‑systems must be qualified to appropriate TRLs through processes such as mechanical vibration and shock testing, testing in thermal vacuums, and radiation testing. Qualification above TRL 6 requires access to space, and this testing phase is important for commercialising technologies.
Investing in technologies and facilities for this manufacturing phase will enable Australian manufacturers to raise their TRL levels to meet customer requirements. Increased capability in testing will enable Australian companies to address critical Australian needs in space.
Recommended areas of focus for the qualify phase are:
- improving assembly, integration, verification and validation
- providing opportunities for space manufacturers to perform in‑orbit demonstrations and technology verifications
- supporting space manufacturers to achieve flight qualification (TRL 8) and to develop Verification & Validation plans
- building and facilitating access to Australian analogue or digital test facilities and services, and supporting manufacturers to upgrade existing facilities
- having published standards and compliance regime for quality and safety
- matching quality assurance of space‑qualified products to a clearly communicated set of industry standards.
Access space and operate phase
Australian manufacturers’ capabilities to operate and sustain products and services in space including access to space through Australian launch capability.
Investment in this phase can lead to launch vehicles hosting domestically manufactured and assembled payloads (such as satellites), launch facilities, and supporting infrastructure for telemetry, tracking and command activities. These outputs—and the space‑based digital services they enable—will provide the Australian space industry opportunities to tap into international markets while providing Australian capabilities to the Australian Government.
Hosting operations activities for space missions in Australia—from early operations, commissioning and commercial operations to end‑of‑life disposal of space assets—will allow Australian businesses to tap into opportunities across the whole spectrum of a space mission.
As the industry matures from demonstration missions to operational missions (such as small satellite constellations), the data generated and spin‑off technologies will open up new opportunities for the space sector, as well as parallel sectors. This includes agriculture, transportation outside of the space sector and areas such as space medicine, Earth observation, space situational awareness, and resilient communications within the space sector.
Recommended areas of focus for the access to space and operate phase are:
- enabling Australian OEMs to upskill and upgrade existing manufacturing facilities, and establish new facilities to support the development of a responsive launch ecosystem
- encouraging Australian primes to work closely with Australian subsystem manufacturers and OEMs on their facilities, avionics, software, logistics and R&D
- providing Australian businesses the heritage and experience in operating space assets and generating products from data.
As Australia builds capabilities to access and operate in space, it must continue to be a safe and responsible nation, as set out in the Australian Civil Space Strategy, especially in relation to launch activities. As the Australian space sector grows, it must continue to meet its international obligations, and maintain safe and secure operations in space and on Earth.