Australia to establish new space agency

The Australian Government has this week announced plans to establish its own space agency, making up for a long-running industry deficiency.

Australia has a number of deep space radio telescopes instrumental to international space activities. Image courtesy of CSIRO,
Australia has a number of deep space radio telescopes instrumental to international space activities. Image courtesy of CSIRO,

The planned organization, which so far does not have an official name, will oversee and manage many aspects of the local space industry.

Moreover, the Australian Government hopes that its establishment will help promote high-tech jobs growth in the aerospace sector.

“The global space industry is growing rapidly and it’s crucial that Australia is part of this growth,” said Australia’s Acting Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science Michaelia Cash said.

“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.”

Australia plays host to just 0.8% of the space industry globally, which itself is worth approximately $320bn per year.

Australia previously was the only OECD country without a national space agency with the exception of Iceland.

Nonetheless, the country has a significant space sector and contributes to many international space missions through a number of radio telescopes able to send signals into deep space.

As well, it is one of the few nations to have launched its own satellites, with its first being launched in 1967.

Scope of the agency unclear

While the agency itself will reportedly be established sometime in 2018, its exact scope, and the level of investment it will receive is so-far unclear.

The Australian Government likely is planning to develop existing space infrastructure, as well as support private companies looking to develop smallsat or cubesat manufacturing.

Neighbouring New Zealand has managed to also develop a space-launch capacity (through startup Rocket Lab), something which Australia may attempt to imitate.

As well, it has the potential to attract overseas launch providers should it build a spaceport near the equator in the country’s north where conditions for reaching orbit are more favorable.

Before these decisions are made, however, the Australian Government has stated that it will commission a group of experts to review the country’s space sector, and write a charter for the new organization.