We have lift off: Australia finally joins the space race

Published on the 01/06/2018 | Written by Jonathan Cotton

Australia finally spending in space race

Things finally take off with the government pledging dollars and sense being pledged to the country’s space capabilities – including a $26 million space agency…

The Government has released the Report on the Review of Australia’s Space Industry Capability and its response to the same, and for both industry and venture capitalist alike it’s exciting news – and ends Australia’s reign as one of the remaining OECD countries without a space agency.

The report’s key recommendation is the creation of a dedicated, ongoing and whole-of-government agency “to realise Australia’s civil ambitions in space” – the response commits the Government to establishing just such an entity, starting 1 July 2018.

“The Government will provide AU$26 million to establish a national space agency to drive investment, create jobs and continue Australia’s participation in the global space economy,” the document reads.

“An AU$15 million International Space Investment will provide grants to strategic space projects that generate employment and business opportunities for Australians.”

Of the nine recommendations made in the original report, the response endorses – at least in principle – all of them. In regards to funding, the lion’s share will go to satellite/infrastructure tech, with AU$173 million pledged for better GPS to regional areas, AU$52 million for the development of satellite imagery technology, and AU$64 million for GPS capabilities in the service of Australian business.

“What happens next should be an open and transparent bidding process, leading to an Australian system consistent with international standards.”

This is in addition to two space-related “Cooperative Research Centres”, as well as reforms aiming to ensure that the regulatory framework “reflects advances in technologies and is conducive to commercial investment in the space sector”.

Insiders are excited.

“We have already seen that this sector can be very productive,” says Andrew Dempster, director of the Australian Centre for Space Engineering Research.

“The Australian Space Research Program, which ran from 2010 to 2013, was funded at AU$40 million and produced a huge amount of good work such as making the huge Landsat satellite imagery archive more available for users, and testing a scramjet launcher.”

“Critically, though, that scheme did not put any assets in space, although subsequent work did.”

“What happens next should be an open and transparent bidding process, leading to an Australian system consistent with international standards, and bringing new capabilities.”

The global space economy is currently worth over US$340 billion a year and is growing by 10 percent a year. Currently Australia represents less than a percent of the international industry.

“To capitalise on its growth opportunities nationally and internationally there is need for Australia to create a national vision for the space sector that prioritises building on Australia’s strengths and competitive advantages,” reads the response document, “with government and industry working in partnership to support developing new capabilities.”

“A national space agency will be well positioned to create a national strategy addressing Australia’s space development needs to see greater Australian participation in the global space economy”.

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