Australian lunar exploration mission announced

Thursday, 17 December, 2020

Australian lunar exploration mission announced

South Australian satellite start-up Fleet Space Technologies has announced the launch of SEVEN SISTERS — a mission to send nanosatellites and exploration sensors to the Moon to search for abundant, accessible water and resources in 2023.

The SEVEN SISTERS name is inspired by the star cluster known as the Seven Sisters or the Pleiades, which represents an important story of seven sisters in both Aboriginal Dreaming stories and in Ancient Greek mythology. The Seven Sisters were the companions of Artemis, and this name was chosen as Australia embarks on a companion mission to NASA’s Artemis Program: to land the first woman and next man on the Moon by 2024.

SEVEN SISTERS is developing new resource exploration techniques for Earth, the Moon and Mars. These tools will help NASA identify viable deposits of water and other resources more efficiently. Ultimately, this work will underpin further exploration throughout our solar system. Using massive arrays of sensors on the lunar surface to generate rich images of subsurface water and mineralisation, Artemis will be equipped with the data it needs to make prudent decisions ahead of robotic and human exploration.

Back on Earth, cutting-edge space technology developed through the SEVEN SISTERS mission will be utilised for terrestrial exploration, renewing our resource industry on Earth with new opportunities. These new techniques are already being trialled in South Australia as part of the Accelerated Discovery Initiative.

“Australia has a unique combination of geography, environment and demographics that make pioneering automation and robotics a necessary part of our DNA. We partner with the space industry to stream oceans of data through satellites,” said Gavin Gillett, Mission Advisor to SEVEN SISTERS, from the Pioneer Lab at Rio Tinto.

“The next phase of that partnership starts now, and it will help us reach our climate aspiration on Earth and revolutionise the exploration of space. I’ve never been more excited about the road ahead and what we can achieve together.”

SEVEN SISTERS is led by a consortium of space, industry and research leaders, with founding members including Fleet Space Technologies, OZ Minerals, the University of Adelaide, UNSW, Unearthed, Tyvak Australia and Fugro. Each of these organisations pledged their support in 2019 and has spent 2020 adapting proven technologies for the mission.

“We are thrilled to launch our mission utilising the best of Australia’s capabilities,” said Fleet Space CEO Flavia Tata Nardini. “It is critical that Australia supports NASA’s Artemis Program with high-maturity systems. Our satellites are already in space and our consortium members have proven capabilities in the most demanding environments on Earth. We are ready!”

South Australian Premier Steven Marshall said the program is a fantastic example of the capability of South Australia’s space industry to collaborate on the kind of major space exploration projects that will secure the state’s place in the global space race.

“This program shows how vital collaboration within the industry is to our national success in this emerging sector,” the Premier said. “We are fortunate to have some of the brightest minds in space living and working here in South Australia and it is fantastic to see what can be achieved when these minds come together.

“Together, we have the potential to unlock the infinite possibilities of the space sector — we are clever, we are innovative and we have the resources to do it.”

A key goal of the SEVEN SISTERS program is to secure Australia’s place as a specialist leader in space exploration by 2030, leveraging the existing private investment in Australian space technology as well as Australia’s core strengths in remote operations, communications and exploration. The development of a strong Australian space sector should also see thousands of high-technology jobs created along the way.

The SEVEN SISTERS Explorers Program meanwhile provides a chance for Australian students and graduates interested in geoscience, engineering, computer science and robotics to join this mission to the moon. Explorers will gain access to new roles, taking part in terrestrial geoscience missions, cutting-edge analysis and inspirational space engineering programs. Applications can be submitted at

Image courtesy Fleet Space Technologies.

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