ignite Magazine - Edition 2
Publication 13 February 2020

ignite Series - Part Two: Swinburne University

A new frontier – Australia's tech industry takes off

Australia’s role in the space race was examined at a stimulating ignite event hosted by the Victorian Chamber in partnership with Swinburne University of Technology in Swinburne’s Advanced Manufacturing and Design Centre on 19 February 2019.

Hosted by astrophysicist Professor Alan Duffy, ignite covered Victoria’s industry-linked innovation and research capabilities and how Swinburne researchers are at the forefront of the rapidly emerging local space sector.

Professors Virginia Kilborn, Bronwyn Fox and Matthew Bailes discussed how Australian industry is using advanced technology to innovate and create jobs in space exploration.

Professor Virginia Kilborn: Building the workforce of the future – growing Australia’s space

Professor Virginia Kilborn, who leads Swinburne’s Space Office, revealed today’s space race is driven by technology and manufacturing advances, such as Swinburne’s work with others on the SkyHopper Q satellite, Australia’s first space telescope designed to find gamma ray bursts, distant galaxies and planets orbiting nearby stars.

Professor Kilborn also discussed the SHINE experiment with Haileybury, which sees a student-designed experiment conducted in space.

Watch the presentation! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=25SsB-ZdDMY

Swinburne panel
The Swinburne panel

Professor Bronwyn Fox: Industry 4.0. Lightweight space technologies

Swinburne Manufacturing Futures Research Institute Director Professor Bronwyn Fox outlined world-first technology Swinburne is developing with industry partners using space age materials, 3D printing and digitalisation.

These partnerships are exploring more efficient ways of making carbon fibre composites and the potential of graphene as a smart material that could be a spacecraft’s ‘eyes and ears’, detecting changes in pressure, humidity, temperature and fuel leaks.

Watch the presentation! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w7RTjjCehhs

Professor Matthew Bailes: Tour of the Universe - the Molongolo telescope 

Director of OzGrav Professor Matthew Bailes leads the Pulsar and Fast Radio Burst (FRB) research group at Swinburne's Centre for Astrophysics and Supercomputing.

An expert in the new field of gravitational wave astrophysics, he used animation and virtual reality to bring this science to life and describe how we can take the gravitational pulse of the universe using the most sophisticated listening device yet conceived.

Watch the presentation! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FCmADHyCinI

Industry 4.0 and space tech – The next frontier

Professor Alan Duffy and Professor Alek Subic

By Professor Alan Duffy and Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Development) Professor Aleksandar Subic

Propelled by the Australian Space Agency’s establishment in 2018 and its continuing focus on supporting the growth of our space industry, 2019 was a standout for Space 2.0 in Australia.

With $250 million cash and in-kind contribution, the SmartSat CRC – launched in April 2019 – is the largest single investment in space R&D in Australia’s history. It sees the Federal Government, space industry giants, startups and universities, of which Swinburne University of Technology is a core partner, uniting to leapfrog the Australian space sector into the space technology frontier.

For Australia and the world this is Space 2.0.

And it’s happening with – and integral to – advances in Industry 4.0. The need for high performing global bandwidth at low cost, for example, is being met by step changes in space technologies and vice versa.

Industry 4.0 provides the rapid prototyping, reprogramming or reassignment of satellites. The open standards and off-the-shelf components that it facilitates permit smaller players to emerge in Space 2.0. ‘Fail fast’ is the mantra, which allows Australian startups and industry to enter the ‘race’.

Big data-driven practical application 

Core to these revolutions are leaps in computing and data science – the result of ‘Silicon Valley going into orbit’. As the first university to partner with CSIRO in Silicon Valley in the US, Swinburne is at the heart of Australia’s space industry and its intersection with data-driven Industry 4.0.

We are home to OzGrav — the $31 million Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Gravitational Wave Discovery. In 2017 OzGrav helped the world see the death spiral of two neutron stars, heralding a new dawn in our interstellar understanding and explaining the origin of gold we find on Earth!

Space 2.0 is underpinned by revolutionary technologies that mean rockets and satellites can be built by startups, not just superpowers.

We led the formation of a $12 million network of Industry 4.0 Testlabs, hastening collaboration between educational institutions and industry in Australia, including the world’s first operational Industry 4.0 Testlab for carbon composite manufacturing at Swinburne.

Research at Swinburne’s Centre for Micro-Photonics is pioneering powerful next-generation photonic chips to drive the internet. One of the biggest challenges globally is how we meet the bandwidth and major energy demands that big data requires.

Our research is producing photonic chips with the performance, efficiency, reliability and level of integration needed and at a cost industry can afford. 

Startups not superpowers

Space 2.0 is underpinned by revolutionary technologies that mean rockets and satellites can be built by startups, not just superpowers. Developments range from 3D printing of rocket engines to microelectronics that spawn tiny cubesats. Each 10cm sided 1U cubesat is as capable as a car-sized satellite of old.

The current revolution is about harnessing information from space to help humans on Earth. It promises unique insights to improve conditions on our planet and drive growth in the commercial world.

Image credit: Swinburne University of Technology

In agriculture, satellite images assess crop yields and smart tags monitor livestock. Next generation sensors will herd cattle away from SatNav defined virtual fences. Two of the most exciting Australian startups — Myriota and Fleet — are already commercially successful in the space and satellite sector.

Technological disruption is creating opportunities in space. Costs are falling, private ownership is increasing, and we are seeing a growing confidence that the benefits will accrue to Australian industry and across the economy.

Adapted from an opinion piece by Professor Aleksandar Subic, Deputy Vice- Chancellor (Research and Development) and Professor Alan Duffy, Swinburne University of Technology.

The original can be found here. For more about partnering with Swinburne space and technology experts: engage@swin.edu.au

Key player: Swinburne at the forefront of emerging Australian space sector 

The university is a key player in the new Cooperative Research Centre for Smart Satellite Technologies and Analytics, the biggest investment in space industry research and development in Australia’s history.

Our 2019 ignite event looked at Space Tech – the new Australian industry. Hosted by astrophysicist Professor Alan Duffy, it highlighted, encouraged and fostered Victoria’s industry-linked innovation and research capabilities.

Swinburne experts Professors Virginia Kilborn, Bronwyn Fox and Matthew Bailes delved into the world of space to demonstrate how it is enabling Australian industry to access global value chains through advanced technology innovation. 

Technology-driven space race

Recalling the historic moon landing 50 years ago, Professor Kilborn, who is Swinburne Dean of Science and leads Swinburne’s Space Office, said that the current space race was driven by huge advances in technology and manufacturing.

She outlined how Swinburne is working with other universities on the SkyHopper satellite, Australia’s first space telescope designed to look for gamma ray bursts, distant galaxies and planets orbiting nearby stars.

The university regularly conducts experiments in space through the SHINE partnership with Haileybury, which sees secondary school students design an experiment to be conducted in the International Space Station.

In 2019 they sent a tooth to the space station to measure how teeth decay in space compared to on earth. The tooth later underwent a high-resolution scan at the university labs to see if its surface showed signs of decay.

“The students were investigating whether a common mouth bacteria that produces lactic acid – a contributor to tooth decay – could survive and even thrive under reduced gravity conditions,” Professor Kilborn says. “The experiment was a success in that several types of bacteria flourished.”

Space micro units

In August 2019, the Swinburne Space Office ran an Australian-first ‘Space Applications in the Australian Context’ micro-unit. This six-week online unit explored current space operations and ambitions in Australia and internationally.

The micro-unit culminated with an on-campus intensive day, attended by space industry professional Rohan George from Equatorial Launch Australia. Students presented their ideas for growing the space industry in Australia via a pitch-deck presentation.

The course will be offered again in early 2020, with a new micro-unit covering Space Governance and Regulations.

Sun rising over the Earth from space

Carbon fibre composite and graphene

Professor Bronwyn Fox is Director of Swinburne’s Manufacturing Futures Research Institute and an industry leader with more than 20 years’ experience in composites and advanced manufacturing.

She leads numerous initiatives and research partnerships through the Manufacturing Futures Research Institute including: 

  • the world’s first operational Industry 4.0 Testlab for carbon composite manufacturing
  • collaborating with ARENA 2036, a ‘flexible factory of the future’ on the University of Stuttgart’s Baden-Wuerttemberg campus
  • establishing the world’s first graphene certification centre, The Graphene Supply Chain CRC-P
  • developing smart composite materials using graphene with industry partner Imagine Intelligent Materials 
Swinburne is paving the way and doing the hard thinking now to prepare industry and society for the opportunities to come.

“Carbon fibre composite materials are revolutionising the aerospace industry and are being used in both the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and Airbus A350 XWB airframes,” Professor Fox says. “However, the exponentially increasing demand for this high-tech material means that we need to find ways to make structures faster and with less waste.”

Swinburne is working with Austrian company Fill in partnership with Australian company Quickstep on more efficient ways of making carbon fibre composites. It is also working on the potential of graphene as a smart material that could be the ‘eyes and ears’ on a spacecraft or satellite, detecting changes in pressure, humidity, temperature and fuel leaks.

“We are working with carbon-based materials such as graphene and carbon fibre and combining them together,” Professor Fox says. “By making them faster and cheaper and reducing weight we are making really great strides to ensure that space missions and satellite launches are both more cost-effective and safer.”

Leading the way in data analysis

As the Director of OzGrav, Professor Matthew Bailes is leading Australia’s foray into the field of gravitational wave astrophysics.

“Astronomers are some of the first data scientists because the quantities of data are truly astronomical (pun intended),” he explains. “We have to analyse a petabyte of data a day to be competitive, which means we are capturing around 22 gigabytes of data a second.”

“The technology behind catching the data without losing it and transferring it from network cards to computers requires advanced statistics. It requires very efficient data flows and there’s not many people outside the finance industry who have a history in doing that, so we’ve kind of pioneered that.

“We’re very interested in using Bayesian inference (the process of deducing properties about a population or probability distribution from data) and other statistical techniques to know when something is real and are keen to feed that back out into industry.”

Space technology underpins the future

Swinburne is paving the way and doing the hard thinking now to prepare industry and society for the opportunities to come.

Professor Duffy says space technology underpins the future through observing and sending data back to Earth, and by carrying information from sensors that will be embedded in our clothes, cars and homes – the fabric of our society.

“It’s that future of an ever more connected world – a data rich world – that will be the greatest benefit, but if we don’t appropriately manage that future it will also become an increasing challenge for us,” he says.

Swinburne University of Technology

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