Working at NASA is a dream for many people, but for one South Australian researcher that dream is a reality.

University of Adelaide’s Dr Aaron Pereira is currently working at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL), in California, designing unique integrated circuits (ICs) for sensors that look for signs of water in the Universe.

Dr Pereira is a member of the mm-wave and THz group at the University of Adelaide, which is leading the development of high efficiency millimetre-wave integrated circuit modules for interplanetary exploration.

“It takes about 15 years to mature such technology. My group is looking years ahead, at how we can incorporate this technology into future NASA missions,” Dr Pereira said.

“Very few groups in the world have mastered this technology, or have the capability to develop such instrumentation.”

The highly experienced engineer, who has a PhD in Electronic Engineering, received a scholarship through the South Australian Space Industry Centre’s Space Scholarship Program in June last year to continue his research with JPL and other NASA centres, including Goddard Space Flight Center and Glenn Research Center.

“JPL is the pioneer in terahertz spectroscopic imaging, so being there and getting hands-on experience has helped me gain a real understanding of the various intricacies with developing this technology,” he said.

“I’m trying to bring aspects of work back to Australia so I’m having discussions with relevant space and defence companies, to partner and to develop the capability in Australia. There will be niche commercial outcomes for Australian companies.”

The technology may also be used for range of applications in the future, including remote sensing, 6G telecommunications and space based sensors for defence.

Dr Pereira encouraged South Australians to take advantage of opportunities in the state’s rapidly growing space sector, which is home to nearly 80 companies, start-ups and research organisations.

“Make the very best of opportunities that arise, and right now is the time. It’s important to seek out mentors and partners that can help you achieve your objectives,” he said.

Applications are currently open for the third round of the Space Scholarship Program, with up to $100,000 worth of scholarships available to eligible South Australian entrepreneurs.

Since the establishment of the program in 2018, nine candidates have successfully received scholarships, enabling them to attend some of the world’s largest space conferences, study at leading universities and intern at prominent space agencies.