• The Space Agency will be based in Adelaide. Credit: Sitael
    The Space Agency will be based in Adelaide. Credit: Sitael
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After months of debate, the Australian Space Agency has announced that it will set up its national headquarters in Adelaide.

The announcement was made by PM Scott Morrison and Agency chief Dr Megan Clarke alongside Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Karen Andrews, Minister for Cities, Urban Infrastructure and Population Alan Tudge, and Premier of SA Steven Marshall at Lot 14, the site of the former Royal Adelaide Hospital.

"This agency is going to open doors for local businesses and Australian access to the $US345 billion global space industry," PM Morrison said.

"Our Government's $41 million investment into the agency will act as a launching pad to triple Australia's space economy to $12 billion and create up to 20,000 jobs by 2030."

"This new base in Adelaide provides an exciting location for the Agency to deliver on our mandate to transform and grow the Australian space industry," Dr Clarke said.

"We’re engaging with companies nationwide, and have already signed Strategic Statements of Intent and Cooperation with three industry partners, all with investments in SA.

"Our success depends on solid national and international engagement and our vision will see us reach across all states and territories.

"With the rapid growth and excitement in the space industry about the commercial opportunities for small launches, we will maintain our focus on regulatory, licensing and partnership activities."

"SA is the ideal location for the Australian Space Agency with a range of local space industry businesses already established here as well as a rapidly growing defence industry sector," Premier Marshall said.

"Space and the related industries provide SA a huge economic opportunity, and this spells the beginning of an amazing future for not just SA, but for the entirety of Australia," Fleet Space Technologies CEO Flavia Tata Nardini said.

In addition to the HQ decision, the Agency has also launched a new brand identity that draws upon Indigenous cultural connections with space and Australia's unique geographical position.

"We wanted a brand that would not only reflect our role and our values, but would also reflect our unique position as the Australian Space Agency," Dr Clarke said."We celebrate our earliest cultural connection with space and Australia’s unique geographical position in the Agency’s new identity, capturing our past, present and future."

ADM Comment: Ever since the government announced the creation of a space agency, a back-and-forth debate has taken place over where the Agency should be based. Each state wanted the biggest slice of what is already becoming a large economic pie - up to $12 billion domestically by 2030 and possibly US$1 trillion globally by 2040.

In the wider space community, however, the general consensus was that the Agency should be based in Canberra with nodes in each state. ADM understands that this view was shared by Labor and Dr Clarke herself. State representatives advocating otherwise cut lonely figures at industry and policy conferences.

There are merits to Adelaide's case - it has a strong industry and Defence presence, academic expertise, an infrastructure base (notably the Woomera range), and a geographic position favourable for polar orbits. 

Other states and the NT, however, put forward very similar points. Northern states and the Territory are far more cost-effective sites for launches given their proximity to the Equator, Canberra hosts vital space infrastructure (the Parkes telescope is one of only two facilities globally that can communicate with the Voyager 2 spacecraft), and other states have equal claims to academic expertise (particularly UNSW). 

In addition, US Space Command has publicly stated that Australian-US cooperation on space is not likely to take place in SA because Woomera no longer offers the advantages it once did. It is too distant from the Equator, eastbound launches are too dangerous as they must pass over Australia's largest cities, and its will likely be unable to compete with existing northern hemisphere launch sites for polar orbits. In short, Adelaide's arguments did not give it a clear advantage.

Dr Clarke said that "our success depends on solid national and international engagement" - yet the decision to base the Agency in Adelaide locates it far from the headquarters of other national agencies, most notably Defence and the CSIRO. Neither of those organisations are headquartered in Adelaide, despite maintaining a strong local presence, for reasons that apply equally to the Space Agency as a policy arm of government. 

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