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A Sydney man's dream lands in the stars

16 May 2018
Australian engineer brings the space revolution back home
From understanding Solar System physics, building spacecraft, and proposing Australia’s first space project, Warwick Holmes is a true pioneer in Space Engineering.
Warwick Holmes

Warwick Holmes at the European Space Agency launch space port located in the top end of South America 


As an inquisitive eight-year-old, Warwick Holmes watched in amazement as Neil Armstrong walked on the moon.

Mesmerised and with a million questions about the mission, Warwick became committed to being a part of the space revolution.

It led him to pursue his passion to work in the space industry by completing a Bachelor of Engineering (Electrical) followed by a Bachelor of Science at the University of Sydney.

Having completing his degrees, and faced with no established space program in Australia, Warwick took an unpaid internship with the British Aerospace Company in Stevenage, UK in 1985 and later progressed to become an Avionics Systems Engineer and staff member of the European Space Agency (ESA) at Noordwijk in Holland.

Over a career spanning 29 years, Warwick has built 10 successful ESA spacecraft including the Rosetta mission.

He spent almost five years helping build, test and launch the spacecraft which has achieved one of the most incredible results in space exploration history by successfully orbiting and deploying a lander onto a comet.

Warwick’s role as a team member of the Rosetta mission has had a huge impact on our knowledge and the science of comets, and has enabled scientists to prove how water got to Earth at a time when our planet was just a sterile rocky sphere.

With Rosetta, we opened a door to understanding the origin of planet Earth and fostered a better understanding of our future. The team achieved something truly extraordinary.

In February 2017, with a desire to improve the space capabilities of Australia, Warwick returned to his alma mater with the aim of enhancing our space engineering program to inspire the next generation and collaborate with global partners in the international space arena.

Under Warwick’s leadership, the University of Sydney is undertaking space research at the highest level.

This has included developing a proposal for Australia to design, build, test and operate its first Earth observation remote sensing satellite platform.

He is also responsible for continuing the research and operations of the MarsLab MAMMOTH, Continuum and Mawson robots designed and built by the University of Sydney.

MAMMOTH an experimental planetary rover

MAMMOTH an experimental planetary rover

The faculty is home to a space and avionics laboratory, a highly-technical small satellite development centre that houses a 3-axis motion table, attitude sensor testing and modal resonance testing systems.

Other facilities at the University include ground station equipment, clean-rooms, ion and plasma propulsion research facilities, and astronomical observatories including the recently upgraded Molonglo Observatory Synthesis Radio Telescope.

Students in the Bachelor of Engineering Honours (space engineering major) study all space-related activities from orbital mechanics, spacecraft design, launch vehicle design, unit level, subsystem and system level design.

The degree program produces graduates that have the capability to design and build innovative small-scale spacecraft enabling them to go on to work and collaborate with overseas research institutes on international projects.

Not only has Warwick enabled university students to learn complex Spacecraft engineering, he has also been instrumental in promoting careers in space to high school students with his continued support of the Zero Robotics program in Australia.

SPHERES Robots

SPHERES  Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites aboard the International Space Station


The program is affiliated with Massachusetts Institute of Technology and allows school students to develop code that is executed on robots “flying” onboard the International Space Station, as part of a worldwide international schools competition.

The Space Engineering major as well as the Zero Robotics program are fantastic initiatives for those students aspiring for a career in space.  

As the University ranked 4th in the World for graduate employability, a space engineering program is essential to prepare graduates for jobs of the future in Australia and overseas.

“It’s very satisfying to see the space engineering program at the University flourish,” says Warwick.

“The recent interest in an Australian Space Agency by the Government is a testament to the value of space engineering for our country and the demand for these skills will grow rapidly.”

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