In matter of days, weather permitting, two research satellites designed and built in Sydney will be launched from Cape Canaveral. The “UNSW-EC0” satellite is a sole UNSW project, while “INSPIRE-2” is a University of Sydney project made in collaboration with the UNSW based Australian Centre for Space Engineering Research (ACSER) and the Australian National University. These satellites form part of a world-wide consortium of 50 research organisations coming together to launch a constellation of small satellites, or “cubesats”, in a world first for space collaboration, known as the QB50 Project. Credit: Defence

Call to establish national space agency

Philip Smart | Adelaide

The Space Industry Association of Australia (SIAA) has called on the Federal Government to create a national space agency to position Australia as an active player in an international market that was worth around $330 billion in 2014 and is growing by around 10.7 per cent per year.

Releasing its “Advancing Australia in Space” White Paper in Adelaide on Tuesday, co-authored by SIAA Chair Michael Davis, Flinders University space archaeologist Dr Alice Gorman and Mark Ramsey from the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, the association said an agency and space program would provide vital coordination to exploit a growing market.


“In 2015 we saw global venture capital invested in space ventures that was more than the entire 15 [previous] years combined.”


“The Australian space sector currently produces annual revenues of $3-4 billion and employs between 9,500 and 11,500 people from its 0.8 per cent share of the global space economy,” the SIAA stated in its White Paper. “The SIAA believes there is an opportunity to double this within five years, if the Australian Government is prepared to commit to the establishment of an Australian Space Agency to lead a cohesive national space strategy. Further, the agency should have an aim of capturing four per cent of the world market for Australian industry within 20 years, a five-fold increase in the industry’s current global market share.”

The proposed agency would address national priorities and drive industry growth, be responsible for developing and administering Australian civil space legislation and regulations and provide a curriculum development program on space-related topics in Australian schools and universities.

“Economic studies would suggest that people working in the space sector are able to generate more economic benefit than in many other sectors,” Michael Davis said. “And apart from the direct economic benefits, there are spill-over effects and benefits in industry and education. There is no better way to inspire young people to study science, technology, engineering and maths than to interest them in space exploration, space engineering and even space business, or medicine and economics.”

Mark Ramsey said the growth of private investment in space meant this was an ideal time for Australia to make a commitment to the industry.

“In 2015 we saw global venture capital invested in space ventures that was more than the entire 15 (previous) years combined,” he said. “Satellites themselves are becoming relatively cheap to produce and launch, particularly with technology such as cubesats. Australia has three cubesats launching in the next week or two, just as a representation of how quickly the industry is changing.”

Chair of the Australian Earth Observation Community Coordination Group, Professor Stuart Phinn, believes a national space agency and industry program could also insulate Australia from issues affecting our use of data from allies.

“When the US Government had its budget shut down several years ago they stopped live data streams from a number of satellites which affected a number of our government agencies in Australia,” he said. “The current proposed budget cuts in front of the US administration for NOAA and NASA will take out several planned satellites from our future needs for environmental monitoring. So this isn’t a matter of if, it’s when.”

The paper will be presented to the Federal Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, Arthur Sinodinos.

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