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Funding for space robotics to put WA on the map

An imaginative design at Curtin Robotics Club. Photo: Matthew Comito.

Western Australia has taken one giant leap into space exploration after a $6 million federal government investment into towards developing space technology in WA.

Industry, Science and Technology Minister Karen Andrews said the multimillion-dollar investment would focus on the creation of robotics and artificial intelligence to be used in space expeditions.

“$4.5 million will be directed towards a robotics and artificial intelligence control centre, which will support the use of robotics and automation in space,” said Ms Andrews.

“$1.5 million will support space data analysis facilities to enhance space data analysis capabilities in mining, agriculture, emergency services and maritime surveillance.

“These projects will leverage Western Australia’s strengths in the space industry, including sound capabilities in robotics and automation in the resource sector for use in space.”

In 2018 WA was overlooked as the location for the new Australian Space Agency in favour of South Australia, but today’s announcement of Government funding ensures the state will play a crucial role in the nation’s space exploration industry.

Curtin University Senior Research Fellow Dr Katarina Miljkovic says investment has been made in areas which will call upon similar skills used in WA in the state’s enormous mining and resources industry.

“I think first and foremost that it’s absolutely fantastic to see that finally we are getting funding invested in WA for space projects,” said Dr Miljkovic.

“What the agency is trying to do is distribute sections [of work] across the country to the states in respect to their strengths and expertise.

“It seems WA is given a chance to play to its strengths, there are elements such as robotics, [artificial intelligence] and automation that are very well developed in WA in the resource sector, that we can use to translate in the space sector for space exploration.”

LISTEN: Robotics for Dummies – Dr. Miljkovic explains how the mining industry makes WA the perfect state for developing space robotics.

Australian Space Agency Head Dr Megan Clark says the funding allocated to WA would ensure the state plays a key role in the national space agency.

“These investments mean Australia will be able to forge a new level of strategic partnership with the European Space Agency,” said Dr Clark.

“It also means our industry can use the latest space data, artificial intelligence and robotics, and Australia can share its expertise in automation with the world.”

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