Momentum grows for an Australian Space Agency

By on 4 August, 2017

The push for establishing an Australian Space Agency continues to intensify.

Ahead of Australia hosting one of the largest space industry events, The International Astronautical Congress, the Australian Government is calling on ideas for how to evolve the nation’s space industry.

The Australian Government yesterday launched a consultation process seeking broad input on Australia’s space industry capability. The consultation process has already opened and government bodies and industry have already responded in kind. The national Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, Arthur Sinodinos, announced the consultation plan yesterday, which invites views from across the spectrum of industry, government and the wider community.

The Expert Reference Group’s document, The Issues Paper [PDF], provides the basis for an engagement on the key challenges and opportunities for Australia’s space industry. The consultation process supports the review of Australia’s space industry capability, which is being undertaken by an Expert Reference Group, chaired by Dr Megan Clark AO.

The very same day the new consultation was announced, South Australia and the Australian Capital Territory immediately responded by submitted their own input. The two states effectively joined forces to lobby for the establishment of an Australian Space Agency.

South Australian Defence Industries Minister Martin Hamilton-Smith said South Australia and the ACT would present a joint position paper at today’s Council of Australian Government’s Industry and Skills Council (CISC) to further pressure the Australian Government to establish a Space Agency.

“Similar to the defence industry, the space sector will deliver opportunities for manufacturers and service providers to transition to a high technology, high growth sector,” said Hamilton-Smith.

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The push comes as Australia’s investment into activities reminiscent of the United States’ NASA and the European Union’s ESA. This year alone, a new satellite data initiative called Digital Earth Australia was launched, trials for a precise positioning program got underway, a AU$500 million investment into new satellite intelligence capabilities was announced, and Australia launched its first satellites in fifteen years.

It only makes sense that the nation consolidates these efforts, rather than spreading them across a hodge-podge of different agencies.

According to Andrew Dempster, director, of the Australian Centre for Space Engineering Research, the emergence of what has been called ‘Space 2.0.’ menas that  “an Australian space agency makes more sense now than ever before.”

“The old paradigm of big, expensive satellites and big, clunky agencies has been disrupted by easier access to space and the increasingly commercial use of space,” Demptster said. “Australia can leapfrog the old way of doing things, because most local start-ups are working on Space 2.0 applications.”

“There is a groundswell of activity right here, right now, with a critical mass of brilliant young minds developing a 21st-century space industry, but needing supportive infrastructure to make it happen.

“In other words, the environment and timing are right for the establishment of an Australian space agency.”

The Australian space sector currently produces annual revenues of up to 4 billion and employs between 9,500 and 11,500 people from its 0.8 per cent share of the global space economy, which is estimated to be worth $420 billion.

The Australian Government announced in July it was forming a committee to review the need for a Space Agency but space industry experts were hoping the agency would be announced during the upcoming 68th International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in Adelaide in September.

Written submissions are to be provided by 22 August 2017 and consultation sessions will take place from late August to mid-September 2017.

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