Australia will be more involved in the global space race.
Australia will be more involved in the global space race.

Australia’s $12 billion space bet

TECHNOLOGISTS, university researchers and start-up companies are expected to benefit from the establishment of an Australian space agency that could provide a boon for things like precision agriculture and autonomous mining vehicles.

The government officially launched the Australian Space Agency on Monday, setting up the agency to capitalise on the $420 billion aeronautical industry and create thousands of hi-tech jobs, with a review forecasting that the industry will be worth $12 billion by 2030.

Dr Rosalind Dubs is the former Chair of the Australian Space Industry Innovation Council and current Board Director of the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering (ATSE).

She said the cash, and more importantly the government commitment, will foster investment and allow burgeoning Aussie tech companies to tap into the growing global space industry.

"In terms of industry there are a lot of small players already in Australia but they don't have a champion at the big table ... a space agency will be sitting with its peers with NASA, with the European Space Agency, with the UK Space Office to prosecute their case," Dr Dubs told

She hopes it will stop a brain drain of top engineering talent leaving Australia to work in space-related industries in the US, Canada and the UK.

"On the research side, there are a number of universities looking to create critical mass around their own space technology capability," she said.


ASX-listed Electro Optic Systems (EOS) is a Canberra-based defence and space company that, among other things, works with international partners on solutions to the issue of space junk.

"They look at what's called the space environment and use laser technology to monitor space debris ... and are working on methods to actually push dangerous space junk out of the way of valuable satellites that create vital services for the world," Dr Dubs said.

While EOS is "already successful in their own right," she believes the new agency will provide a focal point for research and innovation, allowing other small companies to emulate that success and get a piece of the pie.

She is hopeful the policy certainty anchored by the space agency will encourage large overseas aeronautical and space players such as Boeing, Northrop Grumman and others to "start investing here, in local technologies".

"It will enable partnerships and allow smaller companies to grow," Dr Dubs said.

The global space industry is growing at about 10 per cent a year worldwide, an expert review panel estimated Australia accounted for only 0.8 per cent of the industry.

Dr Dubs thinks Australia can reach 2 per cent within the decade.

The review into the coming space agency recommended Australia build on its strengths in communications technology, debris monitoring and space services including situational awareness, ground stations, and other areas where the domestic industry could "leapfrog" other countries.

The problem of space junk poses serious risks for the satellites that vital services rely on.
The problem of space junk poses serious risks for the satellites that vital services rely on.

In addition to the $41 million allocated to kickstart the establishment of the space agency, Dr Dubs praised the government's $260 million investment in global positioning system (GPS) technology and satellite imagery as part of its 2018-19 federal Budget.

"Satellite data are vital for everything from the monitoring of the environment, to understanding the weather, border security and emergency response, precision farming and time-stamping of financial transactions," Dr Dubs said

"Every $1 million spent on satellites can drive up to $5 million in economic benefits back on Earth."

Minister for jobs and innovation, Senator Michaelia Cash, said Australia's move to join the global space industry had the potential to be worth as much as $12 billion by 2030.

"We have an extraordinary opportunity to increase our share of the growing global space economy," she said.

"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.

"An Australian space agency will support the long-term development of space technologies, grow our domestic space industry and secure our place in the global space economy.

"Through our $300 million investment in space industry and technology, the Turnbull government is allowing businesses across the economy to prosper, enter new markets and create jobs."

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