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Australian telco in $20m robot moon shot bid

PlusComms joins Lunar X Prize team, plans for Sydney mission control

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Australian telecommunications and satellite communications company PlusComms has emerged as a key partner in a space consortium planning to send a robotic spacecraft to the moon.

PlusComms, which is backed by telco industry stalwart Robert Brand, is part of Team Stellar one of the teams competing for the Google Lunar X Prize.

The Googleplex-sponsored initiative is an international moon exploration challenge organized by the X Prize Foundation, challenging space explorers to be the first to land a robotic craft on the lunar surface, to travel at least 1,650 feet and send data and high definition images back to Earth.

The first privately funded team to achieve this by December 31, 2015, will scoop a $US20 million prize.

According to Brand, the regional operations manager of Sydney based PlusComms is partnering with US based KGo Aerospace and i7 Engineering for a commercial lunar mission scheduled for late in 2014.

The partners are the operational founders of Team Stellar, with KGo Aerospace driving the development of the spacecraft through strategic partnerships with other aerospace and technology companies.

Team Stellar has also partnered with George Washington University to develop the cruise vehicles plasma propulsion system and will work with production company Flightline Films to develop a 3D stereoscopic, HD camera system which will be fitted on the cruise, decent, and rover vehicles and will beam footage back to earth.

As part of the basic PlusComms mandate for the project, the company claims that it will build mission control centres in Sydney and Croatia, secure 3 x 30m dishes, build a global data network and backup data network.

The centres are expected to be kept on line for other missions after the 2014 Stellar mission is completed. Brand said that the group will also partner with local universities to acquire and train staff for the mission.

The funding for the local portion of the project’s development have yet to be detailed.

“Although I have been involved in many space missions here in Australia, this will be the most complex ever," Brand said. "It will bring some serious long term ability to Australia and support for other space missions. Once the Spacecraft is launched, the responsibility of many of the major activities will reside with me and my team."

Brand, has been appointed director of spacecraft communications, navigations and data for the Team Stellar group.

Earlier this year, PlusComms bid for the purchase of the Jamesburg Earth Station in California's Carmel Valley. Jamesburg, with a price tag of $US3 million was built to assist the Apollo moon landings and until 2002 was a fully functional communications station operated by AT&T.

Brand told The Register that the transaction is in progress and should be completed by the end of January. ®

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