Daily Bulletin

The Conversation

  • Written by Michael Lund, Deputy Editor: Science + Technology, The Conversation
Space Agency for Australia: here's why it's important

More details on the federal government’s commitment to establish an Australian Space Agency are expected in next week’s budget.

In his budget speech on Tuesday, Treasurer Scott Morrison is tipped to allocate A$50 million to help establish the agency.

Former CSIRO boss Megan Clark will reportedly head the agency for its first year. She is chair of the Expert Reference Group, part of the government’s review of Australia’s space industry capability.

Following a period of consultation, the group earlier this year delivered its final strategy to the government on how the agency should take shape.

The campaign to get a space agency for Australia has been running for years, and has been extensively covered by The Conversation.

1. Why Australia needs a space agency

Back in August 2013, Andrew Dempster, director of the Australian Centre for Space Engineering Research UNSW, highlighted the problem, arguing there was a hole in the Australian public administration where a space agency should be.

He pointed to a 2009 Senate report that noted then that Australia was the only Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) country to lack a space agency.

Dempster outlined ten reasons why he and others believed Australia needed a space agency. Apart from helping to secure funding, and giving Australia access to other space agencies, one of the key arguments was to keep our space experts and engineers in Australia.

He said the UK space agency allowed it to set goals on how it could be part of a global space economy likely to be worth some £400 billion by 2030:

The absolute best Australian students are being attracted to space at the undergraduate level, and goals like that will provide them with somewhere to work – here.

So there are plenty of reasons to establish a space agency – otherwise, Australia will remain “lost in space”.

Read more: Ten reasons why Australia urgently needs a space agency

2. More lessons from the UK

A year later, in July 2014, Dempster and UNSW colleagues Barnaby Osborne and Elias Aboutanios argued again the lessons that could be learned from the UK’s space agency.

They highlighted the pressure from space industry leaders for better UK government support, and a goal to capture 10% of the global space market.

The UK Space Agency was eventually established in 2010 with an ambition to meet that 10% target.

If the UK can do it, why not Australia? But just how much of the global space market does Australia have?

Not a lot, said Dempster, Osborne and Aboutanios in The Conversation:

Australia has so far captured only about A$1.2 billion or just 0.37% of the existing market.

Clearly more needed to be done if Australia was to improve on that share, hence the need to look to the UK’s case for ideas on how to gain government support for a space agency here.

Read more: Investing in space: what the UK Space Agency can teach Australia

3. A space agency announced

In September last year the federal government finally said Australia would get a space agency.

Senator Simon Birmingham made the initial announcement in front of thousands of international delegates at the International Aeronautical Congress in Adelaide.

Among those to react to the announcement was Andrew Dempster who said:

This announcement has the potential to be monumental, and great reward for people (including me) who have fought for an agency for many years.

Details on what role the agency would take were still to be worked out but Graziella Caprarelli, associate professor in space science at UniSA, could see the potential for jobs and the economy:

…the long-term sustainability of a space industry in Australia will critically depend on the availability of local talent, steady supply of expertise, and the manufacturing and technical skills required to bring Australia to space.

Read more: Yes, Australia will have a space agency. What does this mean? Experts respond

4. What sort of space agency?

So a commitment was made to an Australian space agency. But what sort of space agency did people want?

The Expert Reference Group was taking submissions and plenty of people and organisations were prepared to have their say on future role of the agency.

In November last year, Anthony Wicht, an Alliance 21 Fellow (Space) at the United States Studies Centre, University of Sydney, outlined his vision for an agency:

My five steps to an effective agency are: include both “new” and “old” space, give the agency actual power, make the most of the space “brain drain” and work cooperatively with the Department of Defence.

He said space was already attracting investment with Venture capital funding and a number of small businesses already focused on the space sector.

But he too was keen to see an agency help retain Australia’s space experts, and see a return of the wealth of Australians who have gone overseas to pursue space careers.

Read more: Five steps Australia can take to build an effective space agency

5. A place to call home

One of the issues still to be resolved is where any space agency would be based.

Andrew Dempster, from UNSW, and Alice Gorman, a senior lecturer in archaeology and space studies, at Flinders University, picked up the argument.

Clearly there is going to be much interest from many states and territories as to the ideal location for the agency, because that means jobs said Gorman:

People probably are thinking it will be something like NASA, with a whole industrial complex. We’re not anything like that scale. Having said that, a Canberra-based headquarters supported by state-based centres makes a lot of sense.

Dempster agreed that a Canberra location for part of the agency would give it an advantage:

In terms of location, I agree there will need to be an administrative presence in Canberra, to interact with the Federal Government. Other satellite sites should reflect where the action is.

If there are to be satellite offices, they need to be close to where the industry is currently active, and where it is developing. This may require some sort of representation in each state.

Read more: What we're looking for in Australia's Space Agency: views from NSW and SA

There are still plenty of unknowns at this stage and it’s hoped that further details will be revealed once the funding for the space agency is confirmed in Tuesday’s budget.

The Conversation will continue to bring you expert reaction and analysis once those details are known, so watch this space (sic).

Authors: Michael Lund, Deputy Editor: Science + Technology, The Conversation

Read more http://theconversation.com/space-agency-for-australia-heres-why-its-important-96105

Writers Wanted

Kylie Moore-Gilbert has been released. But will a prisoner swap with Australia encourage more hostage-taking by Iran?


Ancient Earth had a thick, toxic atmosphere like Venus – until it cooled off and became liveable


Not just hot air: turning Sydney's wastewater into green gas could be a climate boon


The Conversation


Prime Minister Interview with Ben Fordham, 2GB

BEN FORDHAM: Scott Morrison, good morning to you.    PRIME MINISTER: Good morning, Ben. How are you?    FORDHAM: Good. How many days have you got to go?   PRIME MINISTER: I've got another we...

Scott Morrison - avatar Scott Morrison

Prime Minister Interview with Kieran Gilbert, Sky News

KIERAN GILBERT: Kieran Gilbert here with you and the Prime Minister joins me. Prime Minister, thanks so much for your time.  PRIME MINISTER: G'day Kieran.  GILBERT: An assumption a vaccine is ...

Daily Bulletin - avatar Daily Bulletin

Did BLM Really Change the US Police Work?

The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement has proven that the power of the state rests in the hands of the people it governs. Following the death of 46-year-old black American George Floyd in a case of ...

a Guest Writer - avatar a Guest Writer

Business News

Nisbets’ Collab with The Lobby is Showing the Sexy Side of Hospitality Supply

Hospitality supply services might not immediately make you think ‘sexy’. But when a barkeep in a moodily lit bar holds up the perfectly formed juniper gin balloon or catches the light in the edg...

The Atticism - avatar The Atticism

Buy Instagram Followers And Likes Now

Do you like to buy followers on Instagram? Just give a simple Google search on the internet, and there will be an abounding of seeking outcomes full of businesses offering such services. But, th...

News Co - avatar News Co

Cybersecurity data means nothing to business leaders without context

Top business leaders are starting to realise the widespread impact a cyberattack can have on a business. Unfortunately, according to a study by Forrester Consulting commissioned by Tenable, some...

Scott McKinnel, ANZ Country Manager, Tenable - avatar Scott McKinnel, ANZ Country Manager, Tenable

News Co Media Group

Content & Technology Connecting Global Audiences

More Information - Less Opinion