Space just another domain for Australian manufacturers

Professor Andrew Dempster was not afraid to show his age at Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre’s (AMGC) Space Industry Opportunities event, at UNSW on Monday, September 9. Noting that he has been in the space industry since the 1980s, Dempster confidently declared that now is the best time to be in the Australian Space Industry.

This enthusiasm was shared by other in attendance on the night, including Jens Goennemann, managing director of the AMGC, who highlighted that while our national wealth may be similar to competitor countries with large space sectors, including the US, UK, and Germany, our economic complexity is more similar to Kenya.

For Goennemann, space activities offered a way to increase the complexity of the national economy away from commodity extraction and towards advanced manufacturing.

“If we bring our mind to where it really matters, space is one of them, because you need to get your mind around more than melting steel; you have to work with very complex technologies, and we have it all in Australia today.”

The building blocks of the Australian space industry were on display in the form of start-ups that were capitalising on the knowledge embedded in universities, such as Dr William Crowe, CEO of High Earth Orbit Robotics. Crowe’s venture is providing asset management service for satellite companies to tackle the issue of untrackable space debris.

At the other end of the spectrum was Rod Murphy, from metal manufacturer R&R Murphy, who in diversifying from supplying to the mining sector, pursued the stringent criteria of defence procurement, and in return found a multibillion dollar market not only in defence but aerospace as well.

There to help businesses make the leap from terrestrial to space activities were representatives from Austrade, the Industry Capability Network (ICN), and AusIndustry. Making the most of this opportunity should be a priority for the manufacturing sector, for as Tim Parsons, co-founder and executive director of space accelerator Delta V, highlighted, “Those of us in the space sector want to roll out the red carpet to Australian businesses to do great Australian led international missions”.

With the “complete disruption” of the space sector occurring currently, as Karl Rodrigues, executive director of the Australian Space Agency, put it, Australian manufacturers can be at the forefront of the adoption of new technologies by civil and commercial space agencies, and not be hampered by legacy technologies. As a realm of opportunity, according to Rodrigues, “space is just another domain”.