The moon is sexy again. Multiple national agencies and private firms are planning missions. Both NASA and ESA are planning lunar-outposts or space-gateways, with support by major industry players such as Airbus, Boeing and Lockheed. The time frame for many of these plans is within the next decade. These plans will soon open doors for resources sourced from the moon or asteroids to be delivered in earth or lunar orbit or to the Martian surface.

With its immense experience in terrestrial resource infrastructure and extraction, Australia is well placed to take a leading role in space resource extraction and processing as well as become a leader in advanced in-space manufacturing, such as additive manufacturing or large-scale 3D printing.

  • ACSER and the UNSW School of of Minerals and Energy Resources Engineering jointly host a bi-annual forum to discuss issues surrounding Space Resource Utilisation (SRU). In the years since this event was first realised (2013), the research and industrial backdrop has changed dramatically. Click below to find out more about the  program or proceedings from our past forums:


  • Here at UNSW Sydney we have been developing our capabilities in mission development and SRU research in conjunction with NASA and our industrial partners, enabling us to make substantial contributions to the burgeoning space economy that is now only a few years away. Those efforts are currently focussed in the Wilde project. 

  • PhD topics in this field are available with ACSER.


Civil and Environmental Engineering

Recent Papers

Bennett, N. , Ellender, D. and Dempster, A.G. (2020) “Commercial viability of lunar In-Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU)”, Planetary and Space Science, 182, doi: 10.1016/j.pss.2020.104842

Dallas, J.A., Raval, S., Gaitan J.P.A., Saydam, S. and Dempster, A. (2020) “Mining beyond Earth for sustainable development: Will humanity benefit from resource extraction in outer space?” Acta Astronautica.

Bennett, N.J. and Dempster, A.G. (2020) “Geosynchronous Transfer Orbits as a market for impulse delivered by lunar sourced propellant”, Planetary and Space Science, online 16 January 2020, doi: 10.1016/j.pss.2020.104843

Shishko, R., Fradet, R., Do, S., Saydam, S., Tapia Cortez, C., Dempster, A.G. and Coulton, J. (2017) “Mars colony in situ resource utilization: an integrated architecture and economics model”. Acta Astronautica, 138, 53-67. ScienceDirect.

Craig, G., Saydam, S. and Dempster, A. (2014) “Mining off-earth minerals: a long-term play?”. Journal of the South African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy (SAIMM).,114, 1039-1047. SA ePublications.

Casanova, S., Espejel, C., Dempster, A., Caprarelli, G., Anderson, R. and Saydam, S. (2020) “Lunar polar water resource exploration – examination of the lunar cold trap reservoir system model and introduction of play-based exploration (PBE) techniques”. Planetary and Space Science. 180, 104742.

Pelech, T., Roesler, G. and Saydam, S. (2019) “Technical evaluation of Off-Earth ice mining scenarios through an opportunity cost approach”. Acta Astronautica. Volume 162, September 2019, 388-404.

Nguyen, P.X. and Saydam, S. (2015) “Applicability of shock heating and freezing on regolith found on asteroids for exploration drilling”. MEA Journal of Research Projects Review 2014 AusIMM, 21-26. The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy. (page 29 in pdf)

Dallas, J.A., Raval, S., Gaitan J.P.A., Saydam, S. and Dempster, A. (2020) “The environmental impact of emissions from space launches: a comprehensive review”. Journal of Cleaner Production.

Off-Earth Mining Project: An Integrated Economics Model for ISRU in Support of a Mars Colony

Funded by NASA’s Economic Research for Space Development, Emerging Space Office.

Partners: NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

The project aimed to develop an integrated set of riskbased financial and technical models to evaluate multiple Off-Earth Mining scenarios. This quantitative, scenariobased tool helps identify combinations of market variables, technical parameters, and policy levers that will enable the expansion of the global economy into the solar system and return economic benefits. As part of the project four models were developed: Mars Colony Architectural Model, Extraction Process Model, Mars Infrastructure and Integrated Logistical Support Model and Economics Integration Model. UNSW Australia’s team was led by A/Prof Saydam, with Prof Dempster, Dr Coulton and Mr Tapia Cortez. The group involved developing multiple optimised mining systems to extract water from the Mars surface.

Activities in 2019

We are currently launching a new project in this area, see Mining water on the moon: the Wilde* Project for more info. 

The 2019 Off Earth Mining Forum ran in November. See the event website for more info.

Activities in 2018

  • Professor Saydam was recorded for a MOOC-open access online course by University of Queensland’s "The Future of Mining" course in the area of Off-Earth Mining.
  • Ph.D. student Michael Dello-Iacovo from the School of Mineral and Energy Resources Engineering completed his 1-year internship at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). He undertook research into asteroid exploration, mining and impact risk.
  • Ph.D. student Sophia Casanova replaced Michael in May 2018 to undertake a 1-year internship at JPL. Sophia is conducting research into the development of resource estimation practices for water ice deposits on the Moon and Mars. Sophia presented her research findings at the 42nd Committee on Space Research (COSPAR) and the 69th International Aeronautical Congress (IAC). Sophia was awarded the Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy (AusIMM) Educational Endowment Fund (EEF) scholarship. Prof Saydam was visited by JPL and had meetings with our PhD student Sophia Casanova, her supervisor at JPL Dr Robert Anderson and Dr Robert Shishko. Timothy Pelech supervised by Prof Saydam will replace her later in 2019.
  • Prof Saydam published the following book chapter:
    Saydam, S. 2018. “Extracting Off-Earth Resources”. Extracting Innovations: Mining, Energy, and Technological Change in the Digital Age. Editors: M J. Clifford, R.K. Perrons, S. H. Ali, T. A. Grice. CRC Press. Published May 8, 2018. Reference - 375 Pages. ISBN 9781138040823 - CAT# K32979.
  • Prof Saydam was invited by OZ Minerals to attend the Round Table on the Space Opportunities Roundtable discussion in Monday 27 May in Adelaide.
  • Prof Saydam was invited to deliver keynotes and/or panel speeches on the following events:
    • IMPACT7, Off-Earth Mining, 9th August 2018, Melbourne.
    • Off Earth Mining: Why, When, How? The 8th Society of Mining Professors Regional meeting,27-28 July 2018, Bandung, Indonesia.

Activities in 2017

  • A/Prof Saydam was also part of a project which funded by Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) – Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) competitive grant scheme from the U.S. Government collaborating with Virginia Tech, Ascentech Enterprises and KSC (completed in 15th June 2017). One of the STTR Phase 1 project outcomes was developing a mining and processing optimisation model, called Mars Mining Operation Optimiser (M2O2).
  • A/Prof Saydam has been invited by the UQ and QUT to write a book chapter as part of the book of Extracting Innovations: Mining, Energy, and Technological Change in the Digital Age and also recorded for a MOOC-open access online course by Univ. of Queensland’s The Future of Mining course in the area of Off-Earth Mining.
  • In addition, he was also invited to be the Editor-In-Chief for the Mines of The Future Project by the General Secretary of the Society of Mining Professors (SOMP), and has been leading the Editorial Board which includes well-known professors from the US, Peru, South Africa, Canada, Germany and Australia. The outcomes of the project were disseminated at the 28th Annual Meeting in Italy in 3rd July 2017.
  • PhD student Michael Dello-Iacovo from the School of Mining went on exchange to JPL for several months to continue his research into asteroid exploration, mining and impact risk, under our existing agreement with NASA. Another student UNSW student will replace him in 2018.

Activities in 2015

A/Prof Serkan Saydam spent a significant proportion of his sabbatical (Jun-Dec 2015) visiting potential off-earth mining (OEM) collaborators and developing proposals for ongoing research. This is in addition to the work on the project with NASA’s JPL, and the two events; the Future Mining Conference and the Off-Earth Mining Forum.

As part of his travels, Serkan visited Caltech, MIT, Virginia Tech, Univ. Central Florida, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (CA), Kennedy Space Centre (FL), and Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DC). He gave invited talks in the US on “An Integrated Economics Model for ISRU in Support of a Mars Colony” to NASA SSERVI (Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute) CLASS (Centre for Lunar and Asteroid Sciences), Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), Washington DC, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Boston, MA, Swamp Works, Kennedy Space Centre, NASA, Orlando, FL. He initiated MOUs with JPL/Caltech, MIT, and UTEP.

He also produced the application “Comprehensive Modelling for Off-Earth Mining Optimization and Resource
Processing” under the STTR scheme, i.e. a Government research grant (CAT 3) with Easi, VTech and NASA KSC