Australian Space Agency to call Adelaide home

The six-month bidding war is over, with the city of churches claiming the title of home to Australia's space efforts.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor

The federal government has announced that Australia's newly stood up space agency will call South Australia home, after states and territories around the country spent six months battling for boasting rights.

The Australian Space Agency will be located at Lot Fourteen at the old Royal Adelaide Hospital site.

The federal government announced during the 2018-19 Budget that it would be committing AU$41 million to the creation of the Australian Space Agency.

Under the guidance of former Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) boss Megan Clark, the agency has a mandate to triple the size of Australia's domestic space industry up to AU$12 billion by 2030, generating 20,000 new Australian jobs, and getting more kids to take up STEM-focused careers.

According to CSIRO, Australia's space industry is estimated to have generated revenues of AU$3-4 billion last year, with a workforce of around 10,000.

The Adelaide agency, however, is expected to employ only 20 full-time equivalent staff when it opens in mid-2019.

CSIRO Futures, which is the strategy advisory arm and a partner of Australia's national science agency, recently produced a new roadmap to help determine the direction the country's space industry should take, highlighting that it is not just about putting people on the moon, but rather the commercialisation of all things space.

The roadmap focuses on three main areas for potential development: Space-derived services, space object tracking, and space exploration and utilisation.

Although the Australian Space Agency officially began operations on July 1, 2018, it has been without a place to call home.

In June, states and territories across the country kicked off a six-month bidding war, with the South Australian government pushing its state as an ideal location, with an astronaut at tow.

Dr Andy Thomas endorsed South Australia's space credentials, declaring it the most appropriate state to host the space agency.

Thomas, who worked for NASA after gaining his PhD in mechanical engineering in 1978 from the University of Adelaide, said previously the state was well-positioned to support a burgeoning Australian space industry.

"South Australia's got the heritage, the technical resources, the educational background, the technical infrastructure, the corporate infrastructure the industrial base," he told reporters. "I think we've got a very good chance."

SA Premier Steven Marshall said the state would be putting in a "compelling and competitive" bid to host the agency.

"This state has enormous capability already in terms of space sector, but also enormous potential going forward," he said. "We are the logical place to bring the national space agency."

Federal Minister for Industry, Science, and Technology Karen Andrews said Adelaide was selected to host the agency after putting forward the strongest case.

"South Australia is already home to more than 60 organisations and 800 employees in the space sector and this decision builds on the very strong technology and defence presence in the state," Andrews said.

"Australia's science, research, and technology sectors are key in improving the competitiveness of Australian businesses -- and only under our government's strategic and strong economic management can these flourishing sectors continue to expand.

The Australian Space Agency in September signed a Memorandum of Understanding with France's Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales, with both agencies joining forces to develop their space capabilities, particularly in the areas of operations, science, Earth observation, positioning systems, and communications.

The arrangement was followed in October by the signing of two similar agreements with counterpart agencies in Canada and the United Kingdom.

Alongside Tuesday's announcement was the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between Marshall and Prime Minister Scott Morrison. The new Adelaide City Deal, also located at the old Royal Adelaide Hospital site, is aimed at "turbo-charging Adelaide's economy and driving long term investment in the city".

"The Agency location and the Adelaide City Deal will align to allow better management of population growth and city planning," Minister for Cities, Urban Infrastructure, and Population Alan Tudge said.

"This will ensure jobs, infrastructure, services, and public spaces are in place to create a faster-growing, productive, and liveable Adelaide."


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