Calls for an Australian Space Agency have intensified as South Australia and the Australian Capital Territory join forces to lobby for the space industry.
South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill and ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to work together toward the creation of a Canberra-based space agency with a prominent presence in Adelaide. The five-year agreement recognizes the need to use the various strengths and capabilities found in all states and territories to successfully grow Australia’s space sector.
The Australian space sector currently produces annual revenues of up to $4 billion and employs between 9,500 and 11,500 people from its 0.8 percent share of the global space economy, which is estimated to be worth $420 billion. The Space Industry Association of Australia (SIAA) launched a White Paper in March calling on the Australian Government to establish a national space agency. The Federal Government announced last month it was forming a committee to review the need for a Space Agency but space industry experts were hoping the agency would be announced during the upcoming 68th International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in Adelaide in September. More than 3500 delegates from around the world will attend the conference, including space entrepreneur Elon Musk.
South Australia has a long history in the space industry, which started when the Woomera Test Range was established 70 years ago in 1947 about 450 km north of Adelaide. The outback range is still used and last year launched an experimental rocket flight as part of a joint research program, HIFiRE (Hypersonic International Flight Research Experimentation Program). In October 2016, South Australia and the Agenzia Spaziale Italiana (ASI) agreed to jointly pursue space-related industries. There are at least 60 South Australian organizations with space-related expertise and 11 local space start-ups, including Myriota, Fleet Space Technologies, Inovor Technologies and Neumann Space.
“The space sector has enormous growth potential and is a perfect fit for South Australia, given our national leadership in other high-tech industries including defence, renewable energy, IT and advanced manufacturing,” Jay Weatherill said. “Just like those industries, the space sector will provide opportunities for traditional manufacturers to transition to a high-tech, high growth sector.”
Space Industry Association of Australia secretary Peter Nikoloff said the long process of attracting the IAC to Australia had already lifted the profile of space within government. “The state government in South Australia is certainly pushing hard. They see the economy in South Australia as part of the hi-tech economy and space has a role to play in that,” he said.
Neumann Space founder Patrick Neumann said South Australia could already have had their own space agency. “Just like NASA, who don’t actually build any space shuttles and actually put that job out to tender, South Australia can do that. We have Lockheed Martin, BAE and now Boeing. What we need is leadership, that authoritative body to string it all together. Adelaide’s manufacturing capabilities also have it best placed to house the agency as opposed to other cities and the operational headquarters can run out here with the institutional headquarters better suited for Canberra.”
Despite having a long history in the industry, Australia remains one of the few OECD nations without a national space program or agency. South Australia and the ACT presented a joint position paper at this month’s Council of Australian Government’s Industry and Skills Council (CISC) to further pressure the Australian Government to establish a Space Agency.
South Australian Defence Industries Minister Martin Hamilton-Smith said South Australia was leading the way in the development of Australia’s space economy. “Our vision is to position South Australia as a vibrant hub for future space activity and industry development,” he said.
Article authored by Andrew Spence of The Lead.