Samuel’s career story 

A love of the ocean leads to subsea robotics

Samuel Forbes has always loved the ocean, but his career has taken him deeper than he might have expected. After leaving university, Sam started working in the oil and gas industry and quickly became interested in subsea robotics.

“There’s a whole world where you sit in a room behind screens, controlling robots that are up to 4,000 metres underwater,” he says. “That’s what triggered my interest. Going into the unknown and looking at these subsea structures in locations that humans can’t go.”


Robotics on and offshore 

For five years, Sam worked as a robotics operator on boats off the shores of Western Australia, Malaysia, Vietnam and Indonesia. He then decided it was time to bring his career back to shore. He found a role with international geodata company Fugro, and started working on the management side of subsea operations.

When oil and gas prices plummeted in 2015, Fugro started looking at new ways to grow the business. Sam and his team started experimenting with the concept of autonomous boats. In the process, they came up with another idea.

“We learned that we could leverage satellite communications to support our offshore operations.”


Applying subsea operations to space 

They realised that with a satellite connection, there was no reason for robotics operators to be on the boats. Instead, they could be stationed onshore at a centralised location. Operators now control their robots from Fugro’s Remote Operations Centre based at Telstra’s Perth International Telecommunications Centre in Gnangara.

It wasn’t long before they realised that their ideas could be applied in space.

“The challenges in space are similar to subsea,” Sam says. “The logistics are a little bit harder, but the operations are similar. Australia is good at remote operations in harsh environments. The question is, how do we capitalise on that in space?”


It all starts with a SpAARC

In 2020, Fugro announced that it was partnering with the Australian Space Agency on a new robotics control complex. It’s called the Australian Space Automation, Artificial Intelligence and Robotics Control Complex (SpAARC). It is located in Perth and Sam is leading the project.

In the future, operators at SpAARC will be able to manoeuvre robots in space from the complex in Perth. “I’m really excited about supporting the advancement of commercial space, as well as NASA’s Artemis program and building the lunar foundation,” Sam says. SpAARC will also support partners such as Curtin University in their space research missions.

“I’m hoping that SpAARC can play a significant role in supporting missions on the lunar surface and beyond.”

Samuel’s career journey timeline


Sam completed a Bachelor of Science (Aquatic Resources Management) at Curtin University in 2006.

He started working in the oil and gas industry not long after that, and quickly developed an interest in subsea operations.

Over the next few years, Sam worked as a robotics operator on boats off the shores of Western Australia, Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia.

He then returned to shore and found a management role with Fugro in Perth.

Sam worked in a number of roles at Fugro before becoming the General Manager of Fugro Remote Systems Technology.


In 2020, Sam was appointed director of the Australian Space Automation, Artificial Intelligence and Robotics Control Complex (SpAARC).

He is also a non-executive director for AROSE – Australian Remote Operations for Space and Earth. AROSE brings together leaders from industry, academia and government to help identify opportunities in the space sector.

Key resources

Our key space career job roles and study pathways information is packaged up into downloadable PDFs that students, teachers or parents can easily browse through and keep as a handy reference.

a poster of multiple space professionals

Space careers booklet

This resource covers all the space careers we talk about online, and can be downloaded by students, teachers or parents to read, share or use in the classroom.


Our department recognises the First Peoples of this Nation and their ongoing cultural and spiritual connections to the lands, waters, seas, skies, and communities.

We Acknowledge First Nations Peoples as the Traditional Custodians and Lore Keepers of the oldest living culture and pay respects to their Elders past and present. We extend that respect to all First Nations Peoples.