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Australia's First Lunar Testbed Nearing Completion at QUT
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Australia's First Lunar Testbed Nearing Completion at QUT
by Simon Mansfield
Sydney, Australia (SPX) Dec 07, 2023

In a significant development for space research in Australia, the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) is in the final stages of constructing a lunar testbed, set to be the first of its kind in the country. The 19m x 11m lunar testbed, located near the Herston Rd entrance of the QUT Kelvin Grove campus, is expected to be officially inaugurated in early 2024.

This state-of-the-art lunar testbed will serve as a critical resource for simulating planetary environments, supporting research in robotics, sensing, and other space-related technologies.

Associate Professor Thierry Peynot, the leader of the QUT Space Precinct development, explained the testbed's capabilities. "The lunar environment is incredibly challenging, with no atmosphere, fine moondust that sticks to everything, extreme temperature variations, and high levels of radiation. While we cannot replicate all these conditions exactly, the use of fabricated moondust in the facility will provide a realistic surface and terrain for testing rovers and other space technologies."

The lunar testbed will include a gantry crane to simulate the Moon's gravity, which is only 1/6th of Earth's gravity. This feature will allow vehicles to navigate across the testbed while experiencing the reduced gravitational force of the Moon.

Moreover, the facility will provide realistic lighting conditions, including sunlight, and high ceilings for testing drones. This aspect is particularly relevant for simulating the atmosphere of Mars, where drones could play a crucial role in future exploration.

Ali Buchberger, Director of Industry Engagement, emphasized the collaborative nature of the lunar testbed. "Going back to the Moon and on to Mars is a massive team effort. We hope this facility will play a small part in shaping the future of space exploration, fostering innovation between QUT and companies in the space industry."

The lunar testbed's utility extends beyond academic research. It will be used by students from various disciplines, including robotics, mechatronics, electrical engineering, renewable power engineering, and industrial design. Additionally, research groups focusing on astrobiology, planetary surface exploration, and computer-human interactions will benefit from this cutting-edge facility.

Furthermore, the QUT is committed to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) outreach, and on special occasions, community visitors will have the opportunity to observe simulations from a public viewing platform.

The Research Engineering Facility (REF) manager, Andy Keir, announced that a dedicated research engineering support team would be relocated from the QUT Da Vinci Precinct at Brisbane Airport to the lunar testbed facility. This team, specializing in drone and aviation enablement, will be closer to its user base and will enhance engagement with other members of the REF team, including the Robotics and Autonomous Systems team.

Keir added, "Through these staff, REF will be able to provide enablement for the activities that will occur at the Space Technology Precinct, including design and manufacturing, systems integration, rapid prototyping, and data analysis."

While the facility's formal name is yet to be announced, construction is progressing as planned and is expected to be completed later this month. The official opening is scheduled for the following year, marking a significant milestone in Australia's space research capabilities.

Related Links
QUT Centre for Robotics
Mars News and Information at MarsDaily.com
Lunar Dreams and more

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