Australian Space Agency charged with developing the nation's unified space strategy

The Space Strategic Update is expected to help guide the development of the country's sovereign space capabilities.
Written by Aimee Chanthadavong, Contributor

The Australian Space Agency has been tasked to develop what the federal government is referring to as a unified national space strategy to shape the sector for the next two decades and beyond.

Minister for Science and Technology Melissa Price said development of the Space Strategic Update comes off the back of industry feedback that Australia needs better alignment efforts in the space sector.

"Through the Space Strategic Update, we will maximise investment and efforts to deliver for all Australians," she said.

The Australian Space Agency is expected to work with industry and government over the next 18 months to deliver the Space Strategic Update.

When completed, the update is anticipated to provide a schedule of space programs and investment opportunities for government, as well as plans for other areas of coordination.

"We will enhance coordination of investments and strategies, whether that's across states and territories, across government or between our science, civil and defence activities," head of the Australian Space Agency Enrico Palermo said

"Likewise we must ensure we have internationally competitive regulation that supports industry growth and entrepreneurship while ensuring public safety."

Just last week, Australia National University vice-chancellor and Nobel-prize winner Brain Schmidt said that greater collaboration between local universities will be necessary to help Australia build its sovereign space capabilities.

"Each of us need to work as part of the 'Team Australia' ecosystem. [A] fragmented approach, which I'm afraid that is sort of the natural state of universities, is both inefficient and doesn't scale up," he said.

On top of the Space Strategic Update, Price announced there are no longer plans to introduce space launch application fees, which would have been imposed on businesses conducting domestic launch activities. The introduction of the partial cost-recovery model has been deferred twice since it was first proposed as part of the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook 2019-20.

"Instead of allowing cost recovery to come into effect, or deferring it again -- we're abolishing launch permit application fees entirely," Price said.

"We've taken this decision to provide you with the certainty you need to invest, and to help our small and medium-sized space businesses continue to grow."

In addition, South Australia's dedicated space manufacturing hub has been handed another AU$20 million from the federal government to help get the project off the ground.

The AU$20 million contribution is in addition to the AU$20 million the South Australian government has already committed towards the AU$66 million project.

The hub is being developed by the South Australian government in partnership with a consortium of space manufacturing companies -- Fleet Space Technologies, Q-CTRL, ATSpace, and Alauda Aeronautics.

All four companies will collocate in the facility to collaborate and produce small satellites, rockets, electrical vertical take-off and land vehicles, and support componentry and technical systems. The Australian Space Park will be located at Adelaide Airport.

"This is a huge opportunity for Australia. Our space businesses are already globally-recognised but these investments are about driving their potential to scale up and create more high-value jobs for Australians," Minister for Industry, Energy and Emissions Reduction Angus Taylor said.

"Not only will this investment in South Australia help grow our space sector, it will foster the next generation of space manufacturers and researchers."

This latest investment by the federal government is in addition to the AU$65 million that was announced last week to help "fast track" Australia's space sector.

The federal government has so far committed more than AU$850 million into building Australia's space capabilities since 2018 as part of its "mission to triple the size of the sector and create up to 20,000 new jobs by 2030". This goal was set out under the Australian Civil Space Strategy.

Also on Thursday, Optus announced that it will utilise SpaceLogistics' mission robotic vehicle (MRV) and mission extension pod (MEP) to extend the life of its D3 satellite in orbit for up to six years.  

The MRV, a spacecraft that is capable of robotically servicing multiple satellites in orbit, including the installation of a MEP, will be launched by SpaceX in 2024.

"The sophisticated robotics of the MRV will provide Optus the ability to attach the MEP to D3 which is effectively a fuel tank that extends geostationary life. Once onboarded, the MEP will augment the propulsion system of Optus' D3 satellite, providing an additional six years of life extension," Optus said.


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