Australia looks set to get its own space agency, and it seems to have bipartisan support – at this stage. According to Acting Industry Minister Michaelia Cash, the creation of the space agency is more about commercial advancement than an investment in the scientific community. Speaking to the ABC at a press conference yesterday, Cash spoke of the space sector itself and the importance of being competitive with other countries.
It’s been said that the new agency will employ many thousands of people, open the door for advanced education and the import of elite expertise and give Australia access to the lucrative $420b global space industry.
But what will an Australian space agency look like, and why now? Australia has long been on the forefront of space exploration, albeit from a distance. Geographically, Australia is well-positioned for the use of deep space satellites and many countries make use of this fact. Australia scientific community has also done well and maintaining Australia’s reputation in the sector, despite the refusal of successive governments to invest any substantial amount in a formal space agency. The new agency will likely be predicated on the work already done – focused on sharing information with other agencies around the world and gaining access to their expertise to contribute more meaningfully to the global sector.
There could also be additional opportunities for private sector space businesses to launch in Australia, or for international organisations – such as SpaceX – to expand operations into the southern hemisphere. With a space agency facilitating regulatory requirements and laws with regards to space operations in Australia, the journey for commercial entities would be dramatically streamlined.
Hopefully, the bipartisanship being shown at the moment by politicians will be maintained, especially because in a few short years the space industry is likely to experience the same exponential growth that more earthbound digital industries have shown over the last decade.