​Australia to establish space agency with AU$50m 'seed funding': Report

The ABC revealed AU$50 million by way of 'seed funding' will be used to establish a well-overdue space agency.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor

Ahead of the 2018 federal Budget being delivered next Tuesday, the ABC has reported that the Australian government will be pumping AU$50 million into the creation of a space agency.

It is believed the "seed funding" will be used to finally establish a dedicated Australian space agency to coordinate existing efforts in the aeronautical industry, with the aim of generating thousands of future jobs.

While the ABC said the government is yet to decide where the new space agency will be hosted, the reported flagged Western Australia, South Australia, the Northern Territory, and the Australian Capital Territory as all having expressed interest in claiming the headquarters.

The Australian government had revealed in September that it would be establishing a national space agency once its review into the space industry was complete.

It then announced signing a Space Tracking Treaty with NASA in October, with Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science Michaelia Cash saying the treaty "remains the foundation for a continued cooperative program between Australia and the United States".

At the time, Cash said Australia plays an important role in NASA's exploration of space, having assisted in "almost all of NASA's human and robotic missions to space".

Labor in March promised a AU$35 million investment into a Space Industry Program, comprising research hubs and local space industry development, if it were to be successful at the next election.

Within five years of its creation, Labor predicts an Australian space agency would be worth AU$3 billion to AU$4 billion annually in revenues, and create around 10,000 new jobs in the areas of advanced manufacturing, research, earth observation, and space technologies.

Labor's Space Industry Program is slated to comprise four Australian Research Council (ARC) Space Industry research hubs, which Labor expects will "advance capabilities in emerging areas of industry-focused space research and technology".

There would also be two ARC Space Industry training centres that would work directly with industry in offering 25 industrial PhDs. The opposition is also promising to prioritise the establishment of a Cooperative Research Centre in advanced manufacturing and space technology in future funding rounds.

AU$18.5 million would come from the ARC for these initiatives.

Labor said at the time Australia has a long history in space, pointing to the launch of a rocket in Woomera in 1967 that saw Australia become the seventh nation to launch an object into space.

But only on three occasions in the past 50 years have Australian-built satellites been launched into space. The second was in 2002 and the third just recently when nano-satellites -- known as CubeSats -- were launched into orbit by NASA, with three built at UNSW's Australian Centre for Space Engineering Research (ACSER).

The specifics of the Coalition's plan are expected to be detailed early next week, with the federal Budget due on Tuesday.


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