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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, significant amounts of lunar regolith simulant, and dedicated areas for payload and subsystem testing.  

The site is shared with mining,  automation and AI experts, providing additional facilities such as:

  • a ‘robotics playground’ for testing robots and drones in various terrains
  • minerals sensing, sorting and processing workshops and expertise.

Unique features of the ISRU Facility include:

  • 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 also allows supports augmented and virtual reality mission demonstration, ConOp development and evaluation, and STEM engagement opportunities – all in a safe and collaborative environment.
  • Availability of high-quality lunar mare and highland regolith simulants in relatively large quantities (100’s kgs instead of 1-2 kgs), which allows for more realistic, larger scale, longer-term testing and evaluation capabilities.
  • The sealed dust area provides a high-fidelity planetary analogue using material that is geologically realistic to lunar regolith. This provides unique opportunities for evaluation of ISRU payloads, regolith extraction and manipulation concepts, mechanical and robotic mobility platforms in a controlled and safe environment.
  • Dedicated evaluation areas for conducting controlled and systematic evaluation of components, subsystems and systems draws upon our world-class exploration and mining R&D expertise, instrumentation and infrastructure.
  • Integration and access to other major facilities and equipment on site which are directly relevant for ISRU systems development, including the remote management centre, resource processing systems, navigation lab, the robotics innovation centre and a remote testing range.

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

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.

A process that can find and collect just one kilogram of a resource needed on a space mission will avoid the cost of mobilising that resource from Earth – a cost that can be many tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars, plus the cost of the resources required to launch it into space.  

Future robotic missions to the Moon will include technology and equipment to investigate, identify and map suitable resources in the lunar 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 micrometeor strikes mean the lunar regolith is incredibly small, sharp and sticky (electrostatically charged).

Dust mitigation is an important element in the development of rovers and related equipment.

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 test their technology and systems for future space missions.

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