Position statement – Australian Space Industry

Summary of Position

The Australian space industry should be promoted through:

  • greater collaboration between industry, government and academia to grow space-related products and services
  • integration of existing capabilities through global supply chains
  • a support framework for space start-ups
  • building on research and technology strengths and collaborations
  • enhancing emerging capabilities.

Statement of Principle

Australia has a number of natural advantages in space science and technology, including our physical location in the southern hemisphere, a strong platform for research training, significant technical expertise, and strong international partnerships.

At the same time, Australian is also highly dependent on international space infrastructure and technology for purposes including defence, communications, satellite imagery and positioning technology.

These dependencies require Australia to take a strategic approach to space science and technology in a way that capitalises on our strengths advantage while ensuring secure and, where necessary, sovereign capabilities. A mature space industry supported by a robust policy and program framework will allow Australia to address dependencies by developing internationally competitive technologies in our own right.

Statement of Context

Space technology is an integral part of Australian life that supports much of our economy and society.

In September 2017 the Australian Academy of Science’s National Committee for Space and Radio Science released A vision for space science and technology in Australia, a strategic assessment of Australian space sciences. Chief among this report’s recommendations was the establishment of a national framework to coordinate Australian space activities, in order to support the Australian space sector to innovate and mature.

In 2017, the Australian Government appointed former CEO of CSIRO Dr Megan Clarke AC to undertake a review of Australia’s space industry capability, and responded to this review in the 2018-19 Federal Budget with the establishment of an Australian Space Agency.

The Academy’s Position

Australia has a strong research capability in space science, supported by several landmark infrastructure facilities provided under the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy. These includes infrastructure supporting astronomy, marine observation, geoscience and positioning, national computational infrastructure.

With a policy framework to encourage coordination and collaboration across the sector and facilitate strategic relationships between government, industry and research providers, Australia can capitalise on its scientific strengths and other advantages to create an innovative and robust space industry.

Australia has established capabilities in:

  • telemetry, tracking and command for satellite operations, ground station networks and infrastructure supporting deep space exploration and astronomy
  • space applications – agriculture, mining, logistics, aviation and communications depend on space derived services for communication, imagery and positioning
  • satellite communications, communication systems and research into photonics, quantum cryptography, optical design and adaptive optics
  • integration of space derived imagery into many applications including weather forecasting, vegetation and land use monitoring, national security, emergency services and surveying and mapping
  • management and publishing of data derived from space through Government agencies
  • training and expertise in space sciences and engineering.

Australia has emerging capabilities in:

  • design and manufacture of nano- and micro-satellites in universities and emerging start-up companies
  • manufacturing of satellite subsystems, including high performance optics, radio communications systems, optical communications systems and on-board data handling
  • manoeuvring and managing space debris through the work of the Space Environment Research Centre at Mt. Stromlo.

Many major domestic programs are expanding their requirements for space science. These include national defence, Australia’s engagement in space situational awareness, global navigation satellite systems and Earth observation, and space weather prediction and mitigation within the Bureau of Meteorology. At the same time, miniaturised electronics and hardware, such as the CubeSat platform, have significantly reduced entry barriers to space. These conditions, coupled with the presence of our established and emerging capabilities, provide a strong base from which to develop a robust and productive space industry.

Australia should provide support for these established and emerging capabilities, particularly at the level of space industry start-ups and small- and medium-enterprises which capitalise on high level technical expertise to supply products and services to large global missions. In doing so, it will be crucial to provide an environment that favours coordination and collaboration across the sector, enables long-term planning and substantial investment in R&D by the space industry, and facilitates enduring relationships between government, industry and research providers.

The space industry is global, and the Australian space industry should take every opportunity to access international markets. An expanded role in the global space industry will generate strategic advantages for Australia, and leadership will depend on scientific capability and industrial capacity and engagement. The national space agency, announced in the 2018 Budget, will allow Australian institutions and enterprises to be represented in international forums. This will allow better access to international markets and ensure that the Australian space industry is integrated into the global marketplace.

The Academy supports a vigorous and well-supported space industry, sustained by a strong space research sector.

Statement of Authorisation

This position paper was subject to expert review by the Australian Academy of Science and authorised by the Academy Council at its meeting of 11 October 2018.

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