The momentum in Australia’s space sector is “palpable in every state and territory,” according to Dr Megan Clark, the head of the Australian Space Agency.
The ASA launched in July 2018 with the goal of tripling the space sector’s contribution to Australia’s GDP to $12 billion, and creating up to 20,000 new jobs.
The ASA has assembled an “extraordinary team” since its launch, Clark today told the Australasia Satellite Forum.
“Our purpose is crystal clear to us: It is to transform and grow a globally respected space industry in Australia, to do that through partnerships, and to make sure all Australians are inspired by looking up and seeing what Australia is doing in space,” she said during her keynote address
The ASA has the most “industry-focused strategy” of any space agency in the world, she told the forum. “When you’re a small agency you absolutely need to be focused in your purpose and I can assure you, we are,” Clark said.
Since July, the agency has signed four memoranda of understandings with overseas space agencies: France’s CNES, the Canadian Space Agency, the UK Space Agency, and the United Arab Emirates Space Agency.
The CNES agreement is focused on “next-generation smarts and on-board control in satellites”, while the ASA intends to work with Canada particularly in the area of robotics and Earth observation, Clark said. The agreement with the UK is “quite wide ranging,” including robotics, shared missions and the use of space for sustainable development. The UAE agreement includes a focus on the development of regulations.
The ASA has represented Australia at UNCOPUOUS, the Asia-Pac Regional Space Forum, the International Astronautical Congress, and the Colorado Springs Space Symposium.
“We have been doing the simple job that the country asked us to do, which was to open the doors internationally, be one voice, and allow our researchers and industry through the doors that previously had been blocked or shut to them,” Clark said.
On the domestic front, the ASA has signed a series of “statements of strategic intent” to provide clarity on the direction of the agency and seek strategic alignment from industry partners to help grow the space sector. The ASA has so far signed statements with Airbus, Sitael, Goonhilly, Boeing, Nova Systems, Lockheed Martin and Woodside.
There is now a civil space project pipeline of $1.3 billion, Clark said — up from a “couple of hundred million” several years ago. Half of those projects are in communications and ground infrastructure, the ASA head said. However, 20 per cent is “leapfrog R&D” and 20 per cent is focused on positioning and navigation.
“I’m very encouraged by not just the amount of that pipeline, but where it’s actually going,” Clark said.
The launch licences in the ASA’s pipeline are “more than Australia has done in the past four decades,” she said.
Parliament in August passed the Space Activities Amendment (Launches and Returns) Act 2018, and the ASA has begun consultation on regulations to support the amended act. The rules overseen by the ASA will set out the insurance required for each launch or return, with the aim of significantly reducing the barriers to entry for the space sector.
The agency in early April this year launched its Australian civil space strategy for the next decade.
The strategy is “a plan to diversify the economy, connect internationally, develop national capability in areas of competitive advantage, ensure the safety and security of our sovereign space infrastructure and activities, and inspire and improve the lives of all Australians,” the document says. “It also makes it clear that meeting Australia’s international obligations, and supporting rules‑based order, are central to achieving the vision.”
The strategy is guided by four pillars: Open the door internationally for the space industry, transforming and growing a domestic space sector “that lifts the broader economy, and leaps into areas of future competitive advantage”, promote a globally respected, safe and secure space sector culture governed by an appropriate regulatory framework, and inspire the Australian community to help “grow the next generation of the space workforce.”
The strategy outlines seven National Civil Space Priority Areas: Position, navigation and timing; Earth observation; communications technologies and services; space situational awareness and debris monitoring; leapfrog R&D; robotics and automation on Earth and in space; and access to space, through international space missions and commercial launch activities from Australian territory.