Australia launches first space policy

Australia now has its first ever space policy, but it's not necessarily about exploring other planets yet.
Written by Michael Lee, Contributor

Australia now has its first ever space policy, with the Minister Assisting for Industry and Innovation Kate Lundy launching Australia's Satellite Utilisation Policy (PDF).

The policy helps define what interest Australia may have in space, what opportunities the nation might benefit from, and how to prepare to meet challenges.

However, as Lundy mentioned at the policy's launch at the Australian National University in Canberra on Tuesday, it does not seek to create policy around planetary exploration, sending astronauts into space, or discussing domestic launch capabilities. Instead, it aims to provide guidance on satellite technology, whether that be existing equipment in space or in the future; technology that Lundy said is of critical importance.

"Satellite capabilities are now a fundamental part of Australia's economy, our environmental management and our communications infrastructure. The current importance and future potential of satellites is not something we can ignore," she said.

"The most effective contributions Australia can make to the space industry are those that leverage off our areas of niche expertise."

The humble approach to space is mirrored in Australia's space goal, defined in the policy, which instead of alluding to dramatic space exploration or colonisation initiatives said simply to: "achieve ongoing, cost-effective access to the space capabilities on which we rely".

To achieve this goal, the policy has defined seven principles, as taken from the Australian government's 2011 Principles for a National Space Industry Policy (PDF). These principles are:

  • Focus on space applications of national significance

  • Assure access to space capability

  • Strengthen and increase international cooperation

  • Contribute to a stable space environment

  • Improve domestic coordination

  • Support innovation, science, and skills development

  • Enhance and protect national security and economic wellbeing.

To help coordinate civilian space activities, the Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education will also establish a new Space Coordination Office from July 1.

It will house Australia's Space Coordination Committee, which in turn will work with a National Security Space Inter-Departmental Committee responsible for managing national security aspects of civilian space activities.

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