A cool $50 million will reportedly be allocated for the establishment of an Australian Space Agency in the next Federal budget, set to be announced next Tuesday.
According to the ABC, the private sector will make up “the lion’s share” of the remainder of funds needed to establish the agency.
First announced at the International Astronautical Congress in Adelaide last September, then-Acting science minister Michaelia Cash said a space agency is “crucial” for Australia.
Back in July 2017 the Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science announced a review of the country’s space industry capability, led by an Expert Review Group and chaired by former CSIRO chief executive Dr Megan Clark.
“A national space agency will ensure we have a strategic long-term plan that supports the development and application of space technologies and grows our domestic space industry,” Cash said.
“The agency will be the anchor for our domestic coordination and the front door for our international engagement.”
CEO and co-founder of Australian nanosatellite startup Fleet, Flavia Tata Nardini, is also a member of the review board.
“The next industrial revolution is going to be driven from space, and so to future-proof Australia’s economic prosperity, we have to be a part of that movement today.” Nardini said when the review was first announced.
Nardini points out that Australia is “amazing” at space research, but our commercial application of the sector needs work.
“Australia’s role in space must be on our national agenda if we are to truly capitalise on the opportunities it presents,” Nardini says. “The sector is quickly growing and will become a key part of any nation with a successful innovation agenda in the coming decade.”
Nardini says a strategy that enables better international collaboration must be an outcome of the review, and more support for space-led innovation (satellites, rockets, or deep space exploration) is needed. Nardini believes the best way for us to achieve these things is through an Australian Space Agency.
Now just what that agency will look like exactly – collaboration with international space agencies is something we already do – remains to be seen. And what exactly $50 million in funding will do is yet to be fully detailed.
So what do the experts have to say about what it will do for the country?
Dr Alan Duffy is a Research Fellow at Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne
The space economy is worth $420 billion each year globally, and is growing faster than China, this is a sector we want to be involved in. As it stands, the space sector is worth $3-4 billion per year in Australia and based on the example of the UK, we could easily see that double thanks to a national space agency.
A national space agency isn’t about sending people into space, it’s about creating people’s jobs here in Australia.
I have spoken to countless students who want to know how they can work in the exciting space sector without having to go abroad. With a national space agency, our best and brightest can now create a future economy right here.
Dr. Penny King is a Past Science Co-Investigator, Mars Science Laboratory mission (Curiosity Rover) and ARC Future Fellow at the Australian National University
An Australian Space Agency will improve opportunities for Australian scientists to better study the Earth and other planets.
Australians will be on the world stage, asking questions such as: How can we best care for Earth? How should we look for life beyond Earth? Where should we go? What types of instruments should we send? How do we make those instruments?
Associate Prof. David Ottaway is at the Department of Physics, School of Physical Sciences, and Institute of Photonics and Advanced Sensing, at the University of Adelaide
This is a fantastic opportunity for Australia.
Advances in the space industry push the state of the art in engineering, sciences and technology. Many of our Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) graduates frequently need to move overseas to chase such opportunities. It will be amazing if the opportunities that the space industry offers are available locally.
On top of this I cannot think of a better way to inspire the next generation of physical scientists and engineers.
Dr Michael Brown is an Astronomer at Monash University
Australians have long been users of foreign built or operated satellites for communications, remote sensing and research. Indeed, much of my astronomical research uses data collected by American, European and Japanese space telescopes.
There are already Australian space-related enterprises, but an Australian space agency could really help space-related industries flourish.
We still need the details, but I’m optimistic that Australia can develop its own satellites and be partners (rather than bystanders) in multi-national space projects. For example, Australia could be a natural partner for future radio astronomy satellites.
Dr Michele Trenti is a Senior Lecturer and ARC Future Fellow in the School of Physics at the University of Melbourne
Establishing an Australian Space Agency is a fantastic development for the nation, with the potential not only to stimulate the growth of the space industry but also to boost excellence in research on space and from space.
Space telescopes are playing a fundamental role in astronomy, especially for exploring our cosmic origin by studying how the first generations of galaxies were formed, and to search for planets similar to our own around nearby stars.
A national space agency will enhance opportunities for international collaborations on flagship initiatives, as well as foster the development of on shore capabilities.
Professor Simon Driver is at the International Centre for radio Astronomy Research and the University of Western Australia
Here in Western Australia we host the European Space Agency’s early launch and downlink station, which tracks every ESA launch, receives data, and sends instructions to ESAs fleet of space-craft through its radio-dish facility at New Norcia.
As a leading radio astronomy community, with extensive engineering capacity through the mining industry, Western Australia is extremely well placed to play a major role in Australia’s Space Agency.
Graziella Caprarelli is an Associate Professor in Space Science at the University of South Australia
Even though the principal justification for the establishment of an Australian space agency is to drive, nurture and support Australia’s space industry, there appears to be a general understanding that industry growth cannot be detached from STEM education, scientific research and training, as well as technical development.
It is to be hoped, therefore, that the future Australian agency will assume a coordinating role for all space-related activities, encompassing education, research, training, technical and business development, international law and policy, exploration missions.
Brendan Burns is an Astrobiologist at the University of New South Wales
Having our own space agency will help put us at the forefront of space science, as we seek to understand our origins and the possibility of life elsewhere, questions that may ultimately define who we are.
Dr Lee Spitler is at the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Macquarie University
The establishment of an Australian Space Agency is a strong nod of support for the current space sector in Australia, which has largely been operating as a grassroots movement across a small number of companies, university groups and the defence sector.
It will help bring to the forefront all the great work that has been going on in Australia in the space sector, and increase the potential for our country to play a key role in the international space scene in the future.
A space agency not only will serve as a conduit for establishing formal agreements with other nations, it may lead to strategic initiatives for boosting key space-related activities in Australia.
Space already permeates all aspects of our society, from space-based telescopes that can see the afterglow of the Big Bang to facilitating intelligent disaster response with satellite images.
Dr Brad Tucker is a Research Fellow and Outreach Manager at Mt. Stromlo Observatory at the Australian National University
This is a great step for Australia and the future of Australia.
This is just not about putting humans in space, but developing technology, skills, and the expertise to fuel Australia.
We have entered into a new era of space exploration, and Australia is poised to lead the way – just as we were the third country to launch a satellite!
This story is developing, and we will have a full update on Budget Night.