Sensors, rockets, and quantum tech: Four companies share $14 million in space manufacturing government grants

Q-CTRL

Q-CTRL founder Michael Biercuk. Source: Supplied.

Four Australian space companies have secured a share of just under $14 million in federal government funding through the Modern Manufacturing Initiative: Q-CTRL, SPEE3D, Romar Engineering and Titomic.

The grants fall under the translation and integration streams of the $1.3 billion program, and will be used by the companies to scale and increase supply capacity to provide to domestic and international markets, and commercialise technology.

Australia’s domestic space goals have a heavy focus on advanced manufacturing, with the startups producing varied products from liquid-fueled rockets, remote sensing payloads, to green titanium.

The largest grant went to Romar Engineering, awarded $5.8 million to manufacture and deploy space fluid and motion control products for future space missions.

Romar is a contract manufacturer known for its work in specialty plastics for medical applications. Founded in 1968, its history includes helping make Resmed’s first face masks in the 1990s.

Q-CTRL, founded by University of Sydney professor Michael Biercuk, received $4.5 million to develop a quantum-enhanced sensor for magnetic fields that can be used in space, one of the early commercial uses for quantum technology. In 2019 Q-CTRL raised $22 million, following a seed funding round in the prior year.

Biercuk says the sensor technology would directly improve mining productivity, and give defense a completely new tool for gathering geospatial intelligence.

Titanium 3D printing specialist Titomic received $2.3 million to commercialise the manufacturing of space vehicle and satellite parts for the domestic sector, and export market. The company uses a novel cold-spray 3D printing process that allows it to manufacture highly specific metal alloys with properties suited to aerospace.

It’s founder, Jeff Lang, advocates for SMEs in the advanced manufacturing space and the TAFE system.

EffusionTech, better known as SPEE3D, received $1.2 million in funding to develop and manufacture low cost, durable and high performance liquid-fueled rocket engines for the growing commercial launch market.

Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Christian Porter said: “These grants will help bolster Australia’s reputation in the growing global civil space industry and build on the important work being led by our Australian Space Agency.”

The Modern Manufacturing Initiative focuses on six national manufacturing priorities, of which space is one. The other five are medical products; resources technology and critical minerals processing; food and beverage; defence; recycling; and clean energy.

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