The federal budget 2018 announced on Tuesday includes more than $300 million government investment to kick-start Australia’s space industry and develop core satellite infrastructure.
The government has announced plans to establish the first Australian Space Agency with funding of $41.0 million over the next four years. This funding includes $15.0 million dedicated to partnering with international space agencies to enable Australian businesses to compete in the global space economy.
The space industry has reacted positively to the news. Patrick Neumann, chief scientist at Neumann Space welcomed the announcement at his speech in the National Manufacturing Week, noting that the funding, though small, will help the small space technology companies in Australia link with global investors.
Neumann’s company, Neumann Space, has built a new kind of ion engine that has just broken the world record for specific impulse previously held by NASA’s HIPEP thruster.
Space technologies underpin the long-term competitiveness of many other industries, including communication, agriculture, mining, oil and gas.
This investment is part of the government’s plan to create new high-growth opportunities in Australia, create new industries and long-term, high-wage, high-skill jobs.
The government will also be investing more than $260.0 million to develop world-leading core satellite infrastructure and technologies, including better GPS for Australian business and regional Australians and improved access to satellite imagery.
Neumann told Manufacturers’ Monthly that the developments in global positioning system could greatly benefit various industries, including agriculture, mining and defence; “particularly in a country as vast as Australia.”
Under the package, $160.9 million will deliver a Satellite-Based Augmentation System (SBAS) (the technology underpinning GPS) to improve the reliability and the accuracy of positioning data from five metres to 10 centimetres¬¬ across Australia and its maritime zone.
A $64 million investment in the National Positioning Infrastructure Capability (NPIC) will complement SBAS to improve GPS to an accuracy as precise as 3cm in areas of Australia with access to mobile coverage.
Academics and space researchers have supported the governemnt’s initiative. “We can’t afford to get stuck on Earth when everyone else is going to the stars. Australia can finally step up and participate as an equal with other nations,” Flinders University space archaeologist, Dr Alice Gorman said.
“The European Space Agency has nine centres and NASA runs 11 which support spaceflight programs. Large chunks of the private sector rely on them but our model has to be different.
“This is an investment which allows us to compete in the global space race, and the Space Industry Association of Australia predicts we can increase our share in the market from 0.8 to four percent within 20 years,” she added.