Automating Australia’s place in Space

Meet the engineer using mining automation technology in Space for astronomical benefits on Earth

Last updated: 6 February 2024


Michelle Keegan is the Program Director for AROSE (Australian Remote Operations in Space and on Earth), a not-for-profit, industry-led organisation working with a consortium of researchers and partners to make Australia the trusted leader in remote operations science, technology and service, on Earth and in Space.

Michelle Keegan, AROSE's Program Director, explains how mining's remote operations could translate to Space.

Space is not just about venturing into the cosmos. It's about leveraging the inspiration, technology, and innovation from the sector to benefit both Space and our home planet.

My journey into the Space sector was far from conventional, but it's been an incredibly rewarding one. My early years were shaped by a family that cherished adventure and pushed boundaries. My mum was a commercial pilot and passed on a love of flying. Back in high school, I aspired to join the Air Force, but I ended up with a pilot's license instead. Little did I know that flying across Australia would give me a unique perspective on the world. It urged me to think beyond our current limits.

Space encourages us to look back at our planet and reassess our daily actions. It's not just about venturing into space. It's about using the knowledge we gain there and on the way, to improve life on Earth. Space exploration doesn't just benefit us by unraveling the mysteries of the cosmos. It helps us here and now, in research, science and technology.

I spent much of my early career in the resources sector, which turned out to be the perfect complement to my current role as Program Director at AROSE. We're using the best of the resources sector’s technology to bridge that gap between Space and mining, improving our practices on Earth.

Automated robots are already being used at our mining sites around the world to improve safety and efficiency.

AROSE is not just an organisation. It's a consortium of like-minded individuals and entities that believe in the potential of Space technology. We leverage the capabilities of universities, Space companies, and mining enterprises to uplift our economy, inspire across generations into a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education, and drive innovation. Our mission is to take remote operations capabilities from Space and then bring them back to apply them on Earth, improving not just the mining sector but also agriculture, defence, and more.

One of our primary goals at AROSE is to raise awareness about the Space sector, to help people understand the profound impact it has on our lives. Space technology is part of our daily existence – from weather forecasting to GPS (Global Positioning System) – yet many are unaware of its significance. We aim to change that, inspiring the next generation and creating jobs that they might not be aware of, or which might not even exist yet.

The Space sector is undergoing a radical transformation. Things are getting smaller, cheaper, and more accessible. Innovations in Space have a ripple effect, accelerating innovation on Earth. The small satellites and spacecraft now in Space reflect the pace of change and progress, helping us to miniaturise and enhance our practices here on Earth. Because of this technology, we can look to its use to help us reduce our footprint on Earth.

For me, what's most gratifying about AROSE is the connection it has fostered between the resources and Space sectors. That’s unlocked countless opportunities, even garnering interest from NASA. I'm also deeply honored to have been named the Australian Space Professional of the Year, as it signifies the impact of our work at this unique crossroads of Space and resources. And while my 8-year-old self could never have imagined working in the Space sector, I hope to inspire the next generation to dream big.

The next 5 years will be an exciting time at AROSE, as we work on Australia's first lunar rover, with other Space missions on the horizon. We're not just reaching for the moon. We're aiming for Mars and beyond. And that's not just about exploring another planet. It's about challenging ourselves and our place in the universe. It's a journey of self-discovery and growth – an opportunity to reflect on our role on Earth and how we can continue to improve our world for generations to come.

Space beckons us to see the bigger picture, to explore new frontiers, and to create a brighter future for all of humanity. With each step, we draw closer to the stars and farther from our limitations, and it's a journey I'm excited to be a part of.


AROSE (Australian Remote Operations in Space and on Earth) brings together Australia’s traditional industry sectors and the burgeoning international Space sector, to collaborate on targeted, industry-led projects with Australia’s world-leading remote operations expertise at their core.

Control centre
Our Remote Operations Centre in Perth, Western Australia operates automated trucks, trains and equipment on our sites from thousands of kilometres away. We're working with AROSE to see how this could help build Australia's Space sector capability.

Automation and robotics in mining

Automation has been part of our business for more than a decade, and helps us run safer, more efficient and lower cost operations. We’re removing the risk of human error and improving safety by increasing the automation of trucks, drills and trains.

Our Iron Ore business operates the world’s first fully autonomous, heavy-haul long-distance railway system – AutoHaul™ – which has so far travelled more than 7 million kilometres. And across many of our operations, we’re using remotely operated water carts, trucks and drones to do risky jobs and keep our people safe.

We’re working with AROSE to translate these technologies to a different remote environment – in Space.

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