Australia as seen from space

Australian government officially launches national space agency

Image credit: Dreamstime

The Australian Space Agency will begin operations on 1 July 2018, the Australian government has announced, following its review into the Australian space industry.

The creation of an Australian space agency has been likely since last year, when the government announced in September that it would be promoting its domestic space industry. The agency, it has now been announced, will be led Dr Megan Clark, formerly chief executive of CSIRO: the country’s scientific research agency.

In July 2017, the federal government appointed Clark to head up a comprehensive review of Australia’s domestic space industry.

According to the report, Australia’s space industry is worth approximately AUS$3.94bn, (£2.19bn) – of which 88 per cent is contributed by the private sector – less than one per cent of the colossal domestic space industry in the US. In her report, Clark suggested an “ambitious goal” of tripling the size of Australia’s space industry by 2030.

Australia is ideally placed, the report said, to support satellite communications and observations of the Earth among other space-based activities. In particular, the Murchison region in Western Australia is an ideal spot for radio astronomy.

“The growth of our space industry will provide an additional 10,000 to 20,000 high-level jobs across Australia, while creating a sustainable and important capability for the nation”, she wrote. “Space is integral to how all of us communicate, locate and see the world and underpins the ability of Australia’s key sectors, such as agriculture, maritime, gas, mining and transport to remain world-leading.”

The Australian Space Agency will coordinate domestic space activities for Australia to help boost its space industry. In this month’s federal budget, the government has set aside funding of AUS$41m (£22.7m) to “grow the Australian space industry”, including AUS$26m (£14.4m) “dedicated to the establishment of the agency”.

A further AUS$15m (£8.3m) has been set aside to establish the International Space Investment project, which will offer grants to “strategic space projects”. Funding will also go towards providing better access to satellite images and improving GPS performance in the country.

“We have an extraordinary opportunity to increase our share of the growing global space economy,” said Senator Michaelia Cash, the Minister for Jobs and Innovation, in a statement.

“Space technologies are not just about taking people to the moon; they open up opportunities for many industries, including communications, agriculture, mining, oil and gas.”

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