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Australia to establish national space agency to ensure long-term plan for growth of domestic space industry

The Australian Government has committed to establishing a national space agency to ensure Australia has a long-term plan to grow its domestic space industry.

The establishment of a space agency is one of the key issues being examined by the Expert Reference Group appointed to review Australia’s space industry capability.

Former CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation) Chief Dr Megan Clark is chairing the Reference Group, and its review is well advanced. The Reference Group has sought views from across the country from industry, government and society, which will be used to inform the government’s plan to expand the sector. Meetings have also been held with key stakeholders, including the state and territory governments.

 It has received almost 200 written submissions in response to its issues paper, and more than 400 people have been consulted through roundtables in each state and territory. The press release states that feedback from the extensive consultation process has overwhelmingly shown the need for the establishment of a national space agency.

The space industry sector has been growing at a compound annual growth rate of 9.52 per cent from 1998 to 2015, more than three times the annual growth rate of world GDP in the same period. Globally, revenue from space-related activities in 2015 was about US$323 billion. The Australian space sector currently produces annual revenues of $3-4 billion which represents only 0.8 per cent of the global space industry.

Acting Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, Senator the Hon Michaelia 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. The agency will be the anchor for our domestic coordination and the front door for our international engagement.”

The Reference Group will now develop a charter for the space agency for inclusion in the wider strategy being brought forward by the end of March 2018.

Last week, the state of South Australia (SA) announced the establishment of a South Australian Space Industry Centre (SASIC). This will be Australia’s first dedicated centre to grow the local space economy and create future high-tech jobs. Last month, SA signed a five-year agreement with the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) to push for a dedicated national agency. 

The Northern Territory (NT) government today signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the SA and ACT governments to grow and develop Australia’s space industry. The MoU sets out a framework for the three governments to work together. NT is expected to provide a good launch site, due to close proximity to the equator and remote locations. There is a process underway to establish a lease and sublease of a site in East Arnhem upon which a private sector proponent intends to develop a space port.

Featured image credit: NASA

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