Go to top of page

SA Schools Space Mission

In an Australian-first, the International Space Station (ISS) has started preparations to host three STEM experiments created by Department for Education school students. The experiments will hitch a ride with Neumann Space, a South Australian start-up who have purchased 125kg of payload space on the ISS.

The experiments will sit on a platform outside the ISS, while high-tech sensors and receptors stream data back to the schools in South Australia for recording and analysis. The experiments will be carried out over 12 months in 2019, before being jettisoned to burn up in Earth’s atmosphere.

The experimental theme is ‘Innovation for a better future’, and experimental design must be aligned with the Australian Curriculum or SACE.

SA Schools Space Mission shortlist

After presenting their initial designs at the 68th International Astronautical Congress in September 2017, 7 teams have been shortlisted by IAC Space Industries and an expert panel to build and test experiments in preparation  for being sent  into space as part of the SA Schools Space Mission.

The 7 teams selected are from the following Department for Education schools:

The shortlisted teams will now receive industry specific professional learning and equipment through Neumann Space so they can begin to build the first physical prototypes. The schools have also started connecting with South Australian based industries and tertiary institutions to support the technical aspects and space-worthiness of their experiments.

Throughout the middle of 2018 the teams will test and redesign their experiments, eventually putting their final product to the challenge at an Australian space testing facility. 

In October 2018, 3 successful entries will be selected to send their experiments into space where high tech sensors and receptors will be used to stream data back to schools for recording analysis over a 12 month period.

Overview of experiments

Australian Science and Mathematics School

(Year 10 to 12 students)

The cultivation of Ganoderma lucidum in a micro-gravity environment for medicinal purposes

The aim of the mission is to observe the growing patterns exhibited by Ganoderma lucidum in a microgravity environment. By observing these behaviours, we hope to evaluate the possibility of utilising the mushroom as a crop upon the International Space Station and future missions, for both food and medicinal purposes, and record the observations for future endeavours in the field of astrobiology. The experiment plan is to utilise Ganoderma lucidum due to their versatility in their growth and medicinal purposes for nutrient supplements. They are able to grow in harsher conditions when compared to other crops and can grow in controlled amounts depending on the amount of substrate and heat available to the mycelium. We predict that the design of the payload we intend to create will allow the Ganoderma lucidum to grow in an environment similar to that of Earth with the exception of the presence of microgravity. On the initial space experiment, the mushroom will not be able to be harvested. However, if successful, it would allow for the team to design a stable, self-maintaining and reproducing crop for astronauts upon the International Space Station. These mushrooms would be easily harvested through this device, and will be supplied to the astronauts as a nutritional and medicinal supplement.

Industry/tertiary links: Primordial Mushrooms, Flinders University, ResearchSat (University of Adelaide)

Le Fevre High School

(Yeah 9 to 11 students)

Monitoring van Allen from the ISS: Energised particle Radiation

The aim of our experiment is to measure ionised sub-atomic particle radiation from the inner Van Allen belt; recording the energy levels of the electrons and energised protons in this region. Most of the recording will take place over the South Atlantic Anomaly where the inner belt can lower to a roughly 200km altitude, where the ISS will pass through.

Industry/tertiary links: AUSPACE, TAFESA (DIPP), NASA, Goddard Space Flight Centre, University of Colorado (Boulder)

Mawson Lakes School

(Year 6 and 7 students)

Magnetosphere analysis using a mobile phone

The magnetosphere is one of the most amazing things that many kids just never think about. But we do think about our phones! We want to help teach kids about how awesome the magnetosphere is by using a phone and sending a special phone – SAM – the Space Accelerometer and Magnetometer into space! We want to measure the magnetic field at the International Space Station (ISS). We know that much data on the magnetic field already exists and forms the basis of our current understanding.  However, we believe collecting our own data and analysing it to create a model of the Earth’s magnetic field will provide many learning opportunities within the curriculum – and make us powerful learners.

Industry/tertiary links: Division of Information Technology, University of South Australia, University College London (UCL) Australia, Southcott Hydraulics & Control Systems

Norwood Morialta High School

(Year 8 and 9 students)

Novel radiation shielding materials

The safety of astronauts is a paramount consideration when embarking on space travel. Space suit material can protect against short term exposure to radiation. The experiment will investigate whether novel radiation shielding materials will be capable of enduring the impact of gamma radiation over extended periods allowing for potential future applications. A test material: Boron Nitride Nanotubes (BNNTs) and a control material will be exposed to radiation in space through a semi-polycarbonate shell housing the experiment. Geiger counters and other sensors will be used to measure radiation levels, temperature and other parameters. Data will be stored on board the Raspberry Pi (Version 3) CPU and transmitted via Wi-Fi connection and streamed back to Earth for collation and analysis over 12 months. The data will allow researchers to determine the effectiveness of BNNTs in shielding against gamma radiation in space, which may allow for potential future applications including in space suit material and space craft design.

Tertiary/Industry links: TEKNA, NBBT, University of South Australia

The Heights School

(Year 5 to 11 students)

Growing bacteria as a radiation shield

This experiment will involve sending an enclosure with a colony of Deinococcus Radiodurans into space, with the aim to test their ability to shield radiation. The bacteria will be enclosed inside of a Perspex enclosure. To measure the radiation that is being shielded, a microdosimeter and geiger counter will be used. The colony of bacteria will be stained with fluorescent dyes and then monitored using a RGB colour sensor that will look at the bacteria. After measurements have been made with the bacteria alive, another set of measurements will be made post-mortem to investigate whether the bacteria are more effective at shielding radiation while they are alive or dead. After this the bacteria will be washed out with alcohol, and a final control set of measurements will be made. All measurements and automation will be controlled through an Arduino Nano. The Arduino nano will also send these measurements back to Earth.

Industry/Tertiary links: ResearchSAT (University of Adelaide), Defence, Science & Technology Group, University of South Australia

The Pines School (R-7)

(Year 4 to 5 students)

Oxidation in Space

Oxidation in Space will investigate how quickly metals oxidise in space.

As oxidation of metal requires the presence of oxygen and water, the question is asked 'What is the rate of oxidation of different metals in space?'. Oxidation will be measured by comparing:

  • Changes in relative colour - measured by a colour-digitising camera with strobe.
  • Changes in internal and external electrical conductivity (corrosion is a poor conductor).

Different metals are to be tested for oxidation via atomic oxygen using changes in conductivity. Small strips of metal (about the thickness of aluminium foil, half a millimetre thick and 5 to 10 millimetres wide) will be used, such as cobalt, steel, stainless steel, copper, nickel, aluminium, gold, titanium (silver is not appropriate as it produces gases in a vacuum).

Colour change is to be viewed by camera shots.

Measuring conductivity is to detect surface change and if any physical changes are seen.

Experimental sites:

  1. The Space Station external platform (unknown oxidation environment)
  2. The Pines School science classroom (low oxidation environment)
  3. The Pines School science classroom roof-top (moderate oxidation environment)
  4. Neptune Island weather recording station (extreme oxidation environment)

Tertiary/Industry links: Toolcraft, ResearchSAT (University of Adelaide)

Two Wells Primary School

Shielding of Electronics against cosmic radiation

The goal of our experiment is to investigate the shielding of electronics against cosmic radiation in space. Electronics will be shielded by different methods and exposed to cosmic radiation. The electronics will be monitored to determine if and when it fails. We will also be monitoring different aspects of the environment like the radiation levels, temperature and light levels, to determine if these variables are linked to the failures. Measuring light levels will allow us to determine when we are pointing directly at the sun. An identical experiment set up and operational at the school on earth will provide a control to determine whether failures are random and component based, or isolated to the space environment. This will operate within our STEM learning space along with a constantly updated display of results from the ISS experiment. These results could be streamed online to allow other schools to also monitor the status of our experiment.

The future benefits of the results of our experiment may assist developers to reduce the mass and expenses of putting small satellites into space by allowing them to use commercial components appropriately shielded and potentially have them last longer in space before they fail.

Tertiary/Industry Links:  Nova Systems, Hewett SA, Defence Science and Technology Group


SA Schools Space Mission

Email: education.secondarylearners [at] sa.gov.au