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The dust chamber can house relatively large quantities of crusher dust that can be used to replicate a lunar terrain profile. ©  CSIRO

Technology, testbeds and tanks

Located at the Queensland Centre for Advanced Technologies, the ISRU Facility features a mission control room, a sealed area that houses a reconfigurable landscape with extended reality, lunar regolith simulant, dedicated areas for payload and subsystem testing areas and a scale model of a CLPS Lunar Lander.

The site, shared with mining, automation and AI experts, provides additional facilities including:

  • a ‘robotics playground’ for testing autonomous equipment and drones in various terrains
  • minerals sensing, sorting and processing workshops and expertise
  • minerals characterisation laboratories and pre-industrial scale facilities
  • advanced additive and subtractive manufacturing facilities.

Unique features of the ISRU Facility include:

Projecting the digital twin onto the testing area combines physical experiments and simulations in real-time.
The team has added a larger outdoor testing area for larger scale equipment evaluation.

  • The mission control room which is ideally located for remotely monitoring and managing assets such as rovers, payloads and related equipment operating in the facility. The control room supports augmented and virtual reality mission demonstrations, ConOp development and evaluation, and STEM engagement opportunities.
  • Availability of high-quality lunar mare and highland regolith simulants in quantities that allows for realistic, large scale, long-term testing and evaluation.
  • The sealed dust area provides a planetary analogue for the evaluation of ISRU payloads, regolith extraction and manipulation concepts, and mechanical and robotic mobility platforms in a controlled and safe environment. The area also includes advanced tracking capabilities and a spatial projection system to overlay extended reality visualisations.
  • Dedicated evaluation areas for conducting controlled and systematic assessment of components, subsystems and systems, drawing upon our world-class exploration and mining R&D expertise, instrumentation and infrastructure.
  • Integration and access to other ISRU facilities and equipment on site including the remote management centre, resource processing systems, navigation lab, the robotics innovation centre and a remote testing range.

Off-world exploration

Space agencies and commercial companies are planning missions to the Moon, Mars and beyond. These missions need resources to support and transport equipment and crew. There is significant value in using materials found or manufactured at the destination, in place of materials that would otherwise need to be brought from Earth.

Finding and collecting resources in space for use on planetary exploration missions avoids costs that can run into millions of dollars per kilogram to transport that resource from Earth.

Future robotic missions to the Moon will include technology and equipment to investigate, identify and map suitable resources in the lunar soil, known as regolith. While the regolith might provide useful resources, it also presents a major challenge for robotic and human exploration.

The solar radiation, extreme temperatures and micrometeorite strikes mean the lunar regolith is incredibly fine (dusty), sharp and sticky (electrostatically charged). Dust mitigation is an important consideration in the development of rovers and related equipment that will be heading to the Moon and beyond.

The ISRU facility provides an opportunity for researchers and engineers to test their solutions at scale. We’re looking forward to working with researchers and businesses from across the space sector to develop and test technology and systems for future space missions.

Dedicated enclosures and instrumentation are available for safely investigating properties of high-quality lunar simulant and exploring dust interaction. ©  CSIRO

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