Top space scientists to lead iLAuNCH project

UniSQ-led program to build Australia’s space and defence capabilities with help of national team

A space industry veteran, an accomplished aerospace engineer, and a leading space management specialist are among the team of experts selected to lead the new Innovative Launch, Automation, Novel Materials, Communications and Hypersonics (iLAuNCH) program, an initiative headed by the University of Southern Queensland (UniSQ).

Hailing from a highly regarded space and defence background, Darin Lovett will step into the role of iLAuNCH Executive Director later this month.

Mr Lovett will be joined at iLAuNCH by space specialist Dr Milica Symul in the role of Chief Operating Officer, and aerospace expert Dr Joni Sytsma as Chief Technology Officer. Dr Rosalind Dubs, who has held positions on the Space Industry Innovation Council and chair of the SmartSat CRC, will lead the advisory board.

iLAuNCH is a $180 million consortium led by UniSQ, in partnership with Australian National University, University of South Australia, and 21 industry organisations, designed to build Australia’s sovereign space capabilities by identifying critical gaps and accelerating several key areas of technology.

It is supported by $50 million in funding from the Australian Government’s inaugural $362.5 million Trailblazer Universities Program.

Mr Lovett has dedicated much of his professional career to developing disruptive technology for Australia. He first entered the industry as a flight test engineer with the Air Force, and from Woomera saw first-hand the legacy of Australia’s initial foray into space. His diverse career includes senior manager at Boeing Phantom Works International and Chief of Strategy for the Executive Agent for Space at the US Department of Defence, based out of the Pentagon in Washington D.C. He joins the team from his most recent role as Director Space for the South Australian Space Industry Centre.

“iLAuNCH will help unite Australia’s world-class institutions, organisations, and companies in achieving a common goal – to propel the country’s space industry forwards,” Mr Lovett said.

“Australia is on the cusp of creating a sustainable space ecosystem and this program will pave the way for viable exports in a globally competitive market.”

iLAuNCH COO Dr Symul has a PhD in physics and has worked at the ANU Institute for Space, along with other universities across the country, building her knowledge of strategic planning and commercialisation. She joins iLAuNCH from her previous role, as Associated Director of the RMIT Space Industry Hub, where she was responsible for the business development and growth of the Victorian space industry.

Sharing a passion for aerospace engineering is iLAuNCH CTO Dr Sytsma. Having grown up in Florida near NASA’s Kennedy Space Centre, Dr Sytsma chose to pursue a career in aerospace engineering, graduating with a PhD in 2013. After devoting her time to aerodynamics research, Dr Sytsma has worked at top aerospace organisations such as the US Air Force Laboratory, Defence Science and Technology Group, Gilmour Space Technologies and Department 13.

“The University is delighted to have secured such a capable and enthusiastic team to take the vision of iLAuNCH forward,” UniSQ Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation) Professor John Bell said.

“With their guidance, the program will ensure the growth of Australia’s space sector well into the future.”

Through iLAuNCH, teams will work to advance the country’s automation abilities, communication technology, and use of novel materials. They will also play an integral role in growing the Australian space manufacturing sector by boosting the development of rockets, launch facilities, and rapid satellite manufacturing.

It is anticipated the program will generate over $3.65 billion in economic benefits for the country through the targeted growth of the space industry. The program’s comprehensive training, education and outreach programs will help to produce the next generation of industry professionals. Its commercialisation branch will translate research outcomes into commercially viable products, simultaneously developing Australia’s sovereign capability in space and creating an industry which can deliver products onto the international market.

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