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Webinar: Systems and Technological Constraints of Space Mining Operations

This series of virtual panel discussions will explore some of the key points of interest in relation to Space Mining. Webinar 1 will look at Systems and Technological Constraints of Space Mining Operations, webinar 2 will explore Space Resources: Legal Issues.

Date: Monday 30 November 2020

Time: 11.00 am – 12.00 pm AEDT


  • Prof Serkan Saydam, UNSW


  • Rob Mueller, Senior Technologist at NASA; Co-Founder of the KSC Swampwork Lab
  • Aude Vignelles, Executive Director at the Australian Space Agency
  • Adrian Beer, CEO of METS Ignited


AusIMM Member – Free

Non Member – $20.00


Please note: Registrants who cannot join the webinar at the scheduled time will receive a link to the recording to watch at a later time convenient to them.

Webinar Overview

Webinar 1: Systems and Technological Constraints of Space Mining Operations

The extraction and utilisation of natural resources derived from the surface and near subsurface of the Moon, Mars and Near-Earth asteroids will enable greater access and usage of space and introduce new avenues for commercialisation. Returning to the Moon for space mining will require innovative technologies and new ways of thinking, and this will eventually extend to the traditional business model. Space Resources Utilisation will be enabled by extraction equipment such as rock breakers, excavators, transport and processing equipment, similar to our terrestrial operations. These systems must be designed and tested specifically to suit Off-Earth resource extraction, where it is important to fit constraints such as reliability, applicability to mineralisation type or targeted product, equipment mass limitations, reaction forces requirements, power efficiency and, volume throughputs. These competing requirements result in a complex design space with countless possible solutions and a large and important field of research and technology development. Due to its complexity and breadth, this field is also likely to lead to unintended spin-off technologies and products which we can use immediately. Therefore, we have invited the experts from Australian Government – METS Ignited Pty Ltd and Australian Space Agency as well as a NASA scientist to discuss this challenging engineering operation.

Panel line-up

Facilitator: Prof Serkan Saydam, UNSW

Serkan Saydam received his BSc, MSc and PhD degrees in Mining Engineering from the Dokuz Eylul University, Izmir, Turkey and completed his Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa. He then worked at De Beers for 3 years as project manager in Johannesburg, South Africa. Serkan joined the School of Mining Engineering as a Senior Lecturer in 2006 and was promoted to Associate Professor in 2012. Serkan then was then promoted to the Professorial role in 2017 and he is currently working as a Professor and Director of Research at the School of Minerals and Energy Resources Engineering at UNSW. A key focus of his research is to address the current needs and future challenges faced by the mining industry. These are generally very complex engineering problems, as mining environments become more extreme and constraints are imposed due to increasing social, environmental, and health and safety standards. His fields of research include ground control, mine planning & design, technology integration, new mining methods and off-Earth mining. In addition, he established research collaboration with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory & Kennedy Space Center, and Luxembourg Space Agency as well more than 20 research organisations and universities globally. He has more than 250 publications and graduated 18 PhD students. Serkan is currently serving as the Discipline Leader of Mining Engineering & Research Director at the School of Minerals and Energy Resources Engineering, UNSW Sydney. He is currently Fellow Member of Australian Institution of Mining and Metallurgy; President of the ISRM Commission on Planetary Rock Mechanics; Deputy Director of the Australian Centre for Space Engineering Research (ACSER) at UNSW; Deputy Secretary General and Council Member of the SOMP (The Society of Mining Professors).

Rob Mueller, Senior Technologist at NASA; Co-Founder of the KSC Swampwork Lab

Rob Mueller is a senior technologist for Advanced Products Development in the Exploration Research and Technology Programs Directorate at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. He is the co-founder of the NASA Swamp Works innovation labs and the Kennedy Granular Mechanics & Regolith Operations (GMRO) Lab. He is also Kennedy’s lead for Autonomous-Robotic Systems involved with In-Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU).

Mueller is a former chairman of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Committee for Regolith Operations, Mobility and Robotics, and former chairman of the ASCE Aerospace Division Executive Committee. He is a member of the American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) Space Resources Technical Committee. In 2010, Rob Mueller was the co-founder of the annual NASA Robotic Mining Competition for Universities and continues as the head judge for this competition to this day.

Rob Mueller has worked for NASA at Kennedy Space Center, Johnson Space Center and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. He was awarded a Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering from the University of Miami in 1988 and a Master (MSSE) of International Space Systems Engineering from the Technical University of Delft in the Netherlands in 2006, as well as a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from the Florida Institute of Technology in 1994. Mueller has 28 years of engineering and management experience in the space industry and has been the recipient of numerous NASA awards, including the astronaut’s personal achievement “Silver Snoopy” award, a NASA Silver Achievement Medal and the NASA Exceptional Achievement Medal. He has been awarded four U.S. patents for new technology inventions.

Aude Vignelles, Executive Director at the Australian Space Agency

Aude Vignelles is the Executive Director, Program and Capability, of the Australian Space Agency. As part of the senior executive team, Aude leads and is responsible for writing the civil space strategy roadmaps, scoping and managing the Agency’s space programs and delivering on domestic and international activities. She provides an in-depth understanding of the national and international space industry, program management expertise and a breadth of space science or systems engineering skills. Prior to this role, Aude was the Executive Manager, Satellite & Fixed Wireless Operations at nbn.

Previously, Aude held senior and executive roles within Foxtel, Austar, Telstra, and Technicolor.

Aude is a space and aeronautics engineer (graduating from ENSICA, Toulouse) who started her career at the European Space Agency in the Netherlands. Her 30 years of experience in delivering large and complex programs embrace the introduction of new technology in the telecommunication, space and media industries. Aude has been living in Australia for the past 20 years and has contributed to the Australian space capability through White Papers, events at conferences with the growing start up community in Australia, and promotion for Women in Space and Engineering at universities.

Adrian Beer, CEO of METS Ignited

Adrian is currently the CEO of METS Ignited, an industry led, government funded Growth Centre for the mining equipment, technology and services sector funded by the Department of Industry Science, Energy and Resources.

As a technology leader, Adrian has a broad range of global experience spanning over 20 years. Most recently he was with ABB, where he led the Mining Software product group. After the successful integration of the software business, he went on to lead the internal digital transformation project of ABB Power Grids working with McKinsey, as part of the strategic re-alignment of the overall ABB group strategy.

Adrian is a hands-on, execution orientated executive with practical experience in transformation project delivery, product technology strategy and commercial marketing. He has managed small scale operations, as well as holding executive leadership responsibilities across global business units within some of the world’s largest industrial technology corporations. With extensive experience in the supply of industrial technology solutions and business transformations projects in capital intensive industries.

Adrian is passionate about collaborative transformation, business efficiency, maximizing the performance and effectiveness of operations for the benefit of all stakeholders. Adrian has completed a Master of Business Administration from the University of New England (Australia), is a Fellow of the Institute of Management, a Fellow of The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy. He holds advisory board positions with Newcastle Institute for Energy and Resources (NIER), and SMARTSAT CRC, and is a member of the Global Mining Guidelines Group leadership team.

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