The Australian Space Agency lifts off

The Australian Space Agency officially commenced its operation this week, setting to create new opportunities for the domestic space sector and to increase Australia’s contribution to the global space industry.

As its ambitious target, the Agency has set out to triple the size of Australia’s space industry to $10-12 billion per year by 2030, from an estimated $3.94 billion in the 2015–2016 financial year.

This is expected to help local businesses gain a greater share of the US$345 billion global space market. Australia’s current share is just 0.8 per cent.

The federal budget 2018 announced more than $300 million government investment to kick-start Australia’s space industry and develop core satellite infrastructure. The government will establish the first Australian Space Agency with funding of $41 million over the next four years.

Megan Clark, the interim head of the Australian Space Agency,  told Manufacturers’ Monthly that the Agency will focus in its first 12 months to open the doors internationally and to engage with states and territories.

“Our purpose is to transform and grow the Australian space industry and also make sure that space is lifting our broader economy. To do that, we will be consulting with all of the states and territories as to how they can help us engage with industry and research in their states and territories,” she said.

The review of the Australian space industry, submitted to the government in March by the Expert Reference Group, also led by Megan Clark, outlined some the key areas wherein Australia has competitive advantages in the global space sector.

These include communication technologies and services; Space Situational Awareness (SSA) and debris monitoring; Positioning, Navigation and Timing (PNT) infrastructure; the application of advanced integrated Earth observation (EO) satellite data; miniaturised spacecraft for communications and EO; research and development (R&D); and robotics and autonomous systems.

“Many countries would not highlight the ground segment as a strategic advantage but for Australia it totally makes sense. With our position in the world, we cover around 12 per cent of the earth’s rotation, we look into the solar system and into the galaxy, and we are an island that at the moment only 30 per cent of our land mass is covered by mobile phone coverage – so for the other 70 per cent the space would be important. For all of those reasons, we see communications and technology and ground stations as our first priority,” Clark said.

While state governments are competing to convince the Government as to why their states are the best location for the agency to set base permanently, Clark said the Agency will be initially working from an office at the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science in Canberra.

In a statement, Minister for Jobs and Innovation, Michaelia Cash said the launch of the Space Agency was a great milestone for Australia – with the potential to create up to 20,000 high-level jobs across Australia.

The Space Agency’s first priorities are to establish a charter for the agency and to develop an overarching strategy and investment plan for Australia’s space industry.