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Australian space agency to launch next year, says government

Australia will launch its own space agency in order to claim a share of the flourishing billion-dollar space industry.

The space push is an attempt to bolster the country’s innovation and science economy, according to Prime minister Malcolm Turnbull.

“It’s a small agency to coordinate and lead,” Turnbull said. “The space sector, of course, is one of enormous potential.”

Simon Birmingham (pictured), the minister for education and training, announced the new agency at the International Astronautical Congress, a five-day event being held in the Australian city of Adelaide, although he did not mention where it would be located.

“This agency will be the anchor for our domestic coordination and the front door for our international engagement with so many of you across the world’s space industries,” Birmingham said.

Michaelia Cash, acting minister for industry, innovation and science, said the agency’s charter would be developed by the end of March.

In a statement, Cash said: “The global space industry is growing rapidly and it’s crucial that Australia is part of this growth.”

“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,” she added.

The opposition Labour Party in Australia said such an agency is needed to increase the country’s share of a global space economy from less than 1 per cent of what the government estimates is worth about A$420bn (£247bn).

It said Australia and Iceland are the only countries in the 35-member Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development that do not have a space agency.

The country has been embracing new technologies following Turnbull’s appointment as Prime Minister in 2015, when he called for more support of innovative industries following the internal party election that saw him usurp Tony Abbott.

Earlier this year, the government opened a tendering process for companies to install Australia’s largest grid-scale battery to maintain electricity flow and take greater advantage of renewable energy production. 

In 1967, Australia became one of the first countries to launch a satellite and images of astronaut Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon were transmitted by Nasa’s Honeysuckle Creek tracking station in Australia.

However, successive governments have baulked at establishing a space agency because of the high cost. The government has yet to announce how much it will invest in the new agency.

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