Can Sydney become host to the nation’s first space agency?

Parkes radio telescope, Parkes, NSW. Picture credit: CSIRO

On Monday, the NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will host an aerotropolis summit in Sydney, with the NSW Government outlining its plans for the future space agency at the new Western Sydney Airport site.

The NSW Government has been lobbying strongly to house the nation’s first national space agency, with the Government appointing Australia’s first astronaut, Dr Paul Scully-Power to lead the state’s bid to locate the agency in Sydney.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced on Wednesday Dr Scully-Power will advise the state government on how to host the Australian Space Agency.

In 1984 Dr Scully-Power became the first Australian in space when he was selected by NASA to be a payload specialist — a person brought in from an outside organisation to go on a NASA mission — aboard the shuttle Challenger for eight days, orbiting the earth 133 times.

The now 73-year-old is widely recognised in the fields of defence, national security, aviation, aerospace, marine science, communications, systems analysis and education.

“We are home to the nation’s busiest and biggest space industry sector, bringing high-tech research and advanced manufacturing together to support the nation’s future space ventures.

Minister for Trade and Industry Niall Blair said NSW leads the nation in space technology and capability, with more 40 per cent of Australia’s space businesses.

“NSW’s Parkes telescope – The Dish – famously played a critical role receiving footage of the first moon walk by the crew of Apollo 11 in 1969 and we’ve remained Australia’s space innovation capital ever since,” he said.

“One in every three space industry jobs in Australia are already based in NSW – we are the natural home for the Australian Space Agency.”

Ms Berejiklian said the Government planned to use Dr Scully-Power’s contacts with global leaders in the space industry to “attract investment opportunities” and develop new industries in the state.

NSW is not the only state showing interest in becoming home to the national space agency. South Australia and Western Australia have both offered to host the agency. The Northern Territory has expressed serious interest and Victoria is expected to put forward a bid soon.

The Federal Government announced in the budget $41 million to establish a new space agency in an effort to capitalise on a global industry worth over $400 billion a year.

The fund also includes a $15-million investment for Australians to take part in international space projects. In addition, the government will spend $260 million to develop core satellite infrastructure and technologies.