Iver Cairns recognised as Scientist of the Year at the Australian Space Awards

18 May 2023
Accolade for leadership in low Earth orbit satellite science
Winning from a group of 10 finalists, Professor Iver Cairns has dedicated his award to the scientists and students helping build Australia's space industry through CUAVA training centre.
Professor Iver Cairns (left) with CUAVA PhD student Savannah McGuirk at the awards ceremony.

Professor Iver Cairns (left) with CUAVA PhD student Savannah McGuirk at the awards ceremony. Supplied

Professor Iver Cairns from the School of Physics in the Faculty of Science has been announced as Scientist of the Year at the 2023 Australian Space Awards.

Professor Cairns is the director of the Australian Research Council Training Centre for Cubesats, UAVs and their Applications (CUAVA), which is based at the University of Sydney.

He is also a leading partner at Waratah Seed, the NSW Government-backed consortium launching Australia’s first ride-share space mission, delivering affordable satellite access for Australian industry.

The awards event was held at the International Convention Centre in Sydney on Wednesday evening, 17 May 2023.

Professor Cairns said he was thrilled to receive the award which is “recognition of Australian space research at the University and through CUAVA providing great opportunities to attract students, funds and new industry partners to Australia’s space sector”.

Since launching in 2019 with Professor Cairns as director, CUAVA has blazed a trail for the development of low Earth orbit (LEO) space programs designed to be accessible for Australian industry and research. It has inked partnerships with a wide range of industry and research bodies in Australia and internationally.

This includes partnerships with Japanese space start-up, Space BD, and ongoing collaboration with Saber Astronautics Australia, HyVista, ArborCarbon, the University of New South Wales, Macqurie University, University of Technology Sydney, the Australian Defence Science and Technology Group, Bureau of Meteorology, Investment NSW, SmartSat CRC, and multiple startups.

In 2021, CUAVA successfully launched and deployed an Australian designed and built mini satellite from the International Space Station, taken into space initially by a SpaceX Falcon rocket, from NASA Kennedy Space Center.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Emma Johnston said: “This is such a well-deserved accolade for Professor Cairns. He is a tireless and generous champion for Australia’s burgeoning space industry. Congratulations to him and his team.”

There were 10 finalists for Scientist of the Year, including Professor Cairns and the University of Sydney John Hooke Chair for Nanoscience, Professor Anita Ho-Baillie, also from the School of Physics and Sydney Nano. Anne Bettens, a PhD student in the School of Aerospace, Mechanical and Mechatronic Engineering who is currently taking part in a 10-week NASA internship through SmartSat CRC, was announced as a finalist in the Academic of the Year category. 

Professor Cairns said the work being undertaken by teams of researchers, collaborators and students at the University of Sydney, CUAVA, Waratah Seed and elsewhere is helping to build a robust, world-recognised Australian space sector.

Professor Cairns said: “I couldn't have achieved this without them.”