What the Australian space agency must do

Proudly supported by

  Last updated March 22, 2018 at 11:33 am

Topics:  

There are many space agencies around the world – a club Australia is about to join. But the big question is – what will its business model look like?


Australia’s space agency is almost ready for launch, but what does it need to do?


When people think of space agencies, most will think of the the big six – NASA, Russia’s Roscosmos, the European Space Agency ESA, China’s CNSA, the Indian Space Research Organisation ISRO, and the Japanese space agency JAXA.


They all provide launch services, build satellites, and are involved in large-scale human spaceflight or robotic exploration missions on other planets, or both.


But there are more than 20 smaller space agencies conducting less ambitious, but no less important missions for their countries.


We won’t know the exact make-up and role of Australia’s space agency until the release of the review into the Australian space agency and its recommendations in March 2018. But we can say that, whatever the overall objectives, its main task will be to keep more of the money currently spent on space science in Australia – currently some $3 billion – and the people who work in the field, in Australia rather than flowing overseas.


To achieve that, here are some of the roles it’s likely we’ll see our new agency take.


Single point of contact


At the moment, when overseas agencies or researchers seek collaborations with Australian researchers or scientists, they have to wade through a quagmire of government departments. It could be the CSIRO, it might be Geoscience Australia, Defence, or a completely different department.


The space agency would be the one central body that can help organise and facilitate those contacts between organisations.


Manage negotiations


In New Zealand, the establishment of a national space agency allowed the negotiation between the Kiwi Government and United States to navigate the restrictions of ITAR – the International Traffic in Arms Regulations – which are prohibitive in allowing non-US companies to participate with the US aerospace industry.


The NZ space agency was the driving force to open all those US space opportunities to New Zealand companies. This included the ability for Rocket Labs to begin launches from New Zealand’s North Island.


An Australian space agency could play a similar role, becoming that negotiator on behalf of the commercial space industry.


By establishing legal agreements and relationships between countries, it has the potential to open up technological, collaborative partnerships, and the ability to attract more funding and venture capital from overseas interests.


Write the rules


A common complaint from people in the Australian space industry is the restrictive framework that exists in Australia.


According to Lisa Stojanovski, an Australian who has worked in the space industry for organisations including Rocket Labs in New Zealand, “the regulatory regime in Australia is just so far behind the eight-ball, by having this space agency announcement, we’re going to make it easier for more businesses to spring up, and for innovation to flourish in the space industry in Australia”.


The space agency would be tasked with rewriting the regulatory framework for space in Australia, stripping away roadblocks and restrictions that currently put Australia at a disadvantage. A more amenable framework, with all the necessary protections and regulations, could play a major role in stimulating the space industry locally, and its activities in space.


Set the agenda


A space agency will also be a single body which can coordinate activities in Australia, and develop a national strategy and priorities.


Establishing a focus and direction, and knowing that there is demand and support for those activities, will assist start-up companies get off the ground and flourish. It would also foster collaboration within the country towards shared goals.


According to Duncan Blake, a PhD candidate in law and military uses of outer space at the University of Adelaide, the agency needs to build “…a strategy that identifies some enduring, national ‘beacon’ projects to muster the immense energy in the Australian space industry right now and which will herald our place in space”.


Stojanovski agrees. “Rather than everyone trying to do their own separate little bit, if we are all working on these shared goals together and have these shared values we’ll have better research outputs, and we’re going to be tackling the issues that really are important to Australia,” she says.


Part of that agenda could be coordinating the building of satellites specific to our requirements, either locally or internationally.


Currently, a lot of satellite-based data being used in Australia is either provided to us by request, or sourced by buying time/bandwidth on similar equipment already in orbit.


Australian needs in the telecommunications and defence areas are large and growing. Building our own equipment is not just about keeping up with other countries or proving we can, but having access when we need, to do what we want, and being able to do it securely when it comes to sensitive surveillance or communications work.


Market Australia overseas


In order to sell Australia overseas, and market opportunities for collaboration with Australian organisations, a vital role of the space agency will be to represent Australia on the world stage.


Just as groups such as Tourism Australia markets Australia as a destination to visit, an Australian space agency will need to become a body marketing Australia as a destination to do space projects.


This single, unified voice spruiking the advantages of Australia as a whole, and promoting particular advantages, will again help build those links between Australia and overseas organisations, private companies, governments, and researchers.


At the recent International Astronautical Congress, many national agencies were advertising their country – acting as the single point of contact to establish partnerships to benefit their own space industries.


Support for STEM training


As a domestic space industry grows, it will require more people equipped with the right skills. For that, the Australian space agency will need to ensure there is appropriately skilled graduates being produced who can drive the industry upwards.


This begins in schools, with outreach activities getting students excited about STEM, and how different pathways can lead to a job in the space industry.


It also involves recruitment drives and information at universities, showing options for undergraduates how to work in space after graduating.


Finally, it will ensure that the students are supported in their quest to work in the space industry, and assisting students traditionally underrepresented in STEM in order to ensure that the Australia that works in the space industry, is the same as the Australia that can be most benefitted by the space industry.


Negotiate for overseas launches


Today, if you want to launch a satellite to track Australia’s weather patterns, who would you ask?


In the past, Australian satellites have been launched by NASA (Aussat 1 and 2) or, in the case of the NBN SkyMuster satellites, by the ESA from French Guiana.


Alternatively, Australia has requested data from other countries with similar equipment in orbit, or bought time on those satellites.


A local agency would streamline that entire process, and make it far easier and cheaper for Australian space science to actually reach space.


Establish and run a launch facility


Rather than relying on other countries to launch our satellites, it may seem a logical next step to begin launching them ourselves, or at least supply a local site from which to do it.


While Woomera is the site of Australia’s one and only local satellite launch, it’s unlikely that it will be the site of a future large launch facility.


Instead, that is would be more likely to be sited as far north in Australia as possible to take advantage of a position closer to the equator.


Thanks to the faster spin of the Earth near the equator, it requires less fuel to launch a satellite from the north of Australia than the south, allowing cheaper launches and larger payloads.


A launch facility will be a multi-billion dollar investment, however, so it might be a longer-term aim once the new space agency has established itself and built a business case for local launches.


Nevertheless, with the right site and business case, a launch facility would not only be useful for local industry, but also be able to sell launch slots to overseas agencies without their own facilities.


Australia could one day market itself next to Florida, French Guiana, Japan, China and Kazakhstan as a go-to site for satellite launches.


What Australia’s agency won’t do


One of the biggest things Australia’s agency WON’T do, at least not immediately, is send humans into space. As a fledgling agency, other priorities must be tackled first.


That’s not to say that the “Aussienaut” astronaut programme dream an won’t ever come true, but it’s still some way in the distance.


Australia’s space agency will have a major impact on science, and society, boosting jobs, collaborations and opportunities overseas for space companies. In this special feature, we take stock of Australia’s current role in space and what the future might look like – for the space industry, for science, the young professionals pursuing their dream jobs, and for the country as a whole.


Keeping satellites in the loop


The final frontier, Down Under


The space jobs of the future


A young professional’s view of space


Looking up for our future in space




About the Author

Ben Lewis
Ben Lewis is a Producer at Australia’s Science Channel, and Editor of the Space, and Innovation and Tech channels. He has worked with scientists and science storytellers including Brian Cox, Chris Hadfield, Robert Llewellyn, elite athletes, Antarctic explorers, chefs and comedians. Ben has also been involved in public events around Australia and was co-writer, producer and director of The Science of Doctor Who, which toured nationally in 2014 in association with BBC Worldwide Australia & New Zealand. Want more Ben? You can hear him on ABC radio in Adelaide, regional SA, NSW, and around Queensland, commercial radio in the ACT, and Radio Adelaide. He also speaks at universities around Australia on communicating science to the public. Around the office he makes the worst jokes known to mankind.

Published By

Science and technology is as much a part of our cultural fabric as art, music, theatre and literature. They play a significant role in our daily lives, yet, in a world dependent on science, we often take them for granted. Australia’s Science Channel believes every citizen has a right, and a responsibility, to be informed, and our mission is to create programs to bring that about.


Featured Videos

Placeholder
KCLOC
Placeholder
Nature Calls
Placeholder
Mexican Fishing Bats
Placeholder
Bittersweet
Placeholder
Timelapse
Placeholder
Invisible Blanket
Placeholder
Look
Placeholder
The Anomalies: Venom Race
Placeholder
Science Meets Making
Placeholder
Spiral
Placeholder
Looking Out There
Placeholder
Protectors of the Penguins
Placeholder
Astroturf
Placeholder
Virtual Humans
Placeholder
Rancheros del Jaguar
Placeholder
Searching For Dark Matter
Placeholder
Finding prehistoric mega-shark fossils on Victoria's coast
Placeholder
The Grandfather of computers
Placeholder
James Cameron talks science
Placeholder
In Class With.....David Suzuki - The Environment
Placeholder
In Class With.....David Suzuki - Career
Placeholder
Sustainable water use with Doug Green
Placeholder
Why is Indigenous science important?
Placeholder
Vanessa Pirotta - Using drones to collect whale snot (FameLab Australia 2018 Winner)
Placeholder
Toby Hendy - Poking Plants (FameLab Australia 2018 Runner-Up)
Placeholder
Muthu Vignesh Vellayappan - Groovy Patches (FameLab Australia 2018 Audience Choice)
Placeholder
Taryn Laubenstein - The Tail of Two Fishes
Placeholder
Richard Charlesworth - Coeliac disease diagnosis can be a pain in the posterior
Placeholder
Pegah Maasoumi - Solar Windows
Placeholder
James Wong - Breathing while you hop: How do kangaroos do it?
Placeholder
Ben McAllister - The ORGAN Experiment: Shining a light on dark matter
Placeholder
Mortaza Rezae - Empowering beautiful minds
Placeholder
Zane Stromberga - Can allergy drugs beat bladder disease?
Placeholder
Working In.....Art - Astrophotography
Placeholder
What's the best way to move - springs or muscles?
Placeholder
FameLab Australia Semi-Final Highlights
Placeholder
Saving lives with platypus milk
Placeholder
How Australia's politicians see our future in space
Placeholder
Keeping satellites in the loop
Placeholder
Tim Flannery talks about COP
Placeholder
Tim Jarvis & Tim Flannery talk Climate Change
Placeholder
Andy's Week in Science - robo baby, university rankings, and cancer on circadian rhythms
Placeholder
From chocolate factory to surgery - the milliDelta robot
Placeholder
Andy's Week in Science: video games, low tech transition windows and a new CRISPR technique
Placeholder
Science lessons useful in Art Restoration career
Placeholder
Are drones the future of racing?
Placeholder
The future of esports according to the experts
Placeholder
Seeing is believing with artist Eugenie Lee
Placeholder
The human impace of Art Science collaboration
Placeholder
Follow your Interests in Robotics
Placeholder
Zoz on 3D Printing
Placeholder
Flavia Tata Nardini on women in engineering
Placeholder
Flavia Tata Nardini on the future of the internet
Placeholder
Explore the ocean floor and Antarctic biodiversity
Placeholder
Follow your interests in Medical Research
Placeholder
Artists on Science
Placeholder
What is Space Archaeology?
Placeholder
Follow your Interests
Placeholder
Scientists on Art
Placeholder
3D Printing in Medical Research
Placeholder
Ethical Issues
Placeholder
Problem Solving - Robotics at Dermatec
Placeholder
Problem Solving with CSI
Placeholder
Tamarah King - Earthquake Geologist
Placeholder
True or False with Bajo and Rad BONUS ROUND
Placeholder
True or False with Bajo & Rad
Placeholder
Andy's Week in Science - Cats vs Dogs
Placeholder
FameLab 2018 - Get Involved!
Placeholder
Nural Cokcetin - How FameLab changed my life
Placeholder
Erinn Fagan-Jeffries - How FameLab changed my life
Placeholder
Noushin Nasiri - How FameLab changed my life
Placeholder
Ronald Yu - How FameLab changed my life
Placeholder
Alan Duffy's Top 5 Science Communication Tips
Placeholder
A Judge's Top Tips for FameLab Australia
Placeholder
Brain Candy - Why, Why, Why Michael Stevens?
Placeholder
The Past, Present, and Future of Malaria
Placeholder
This is a video of poo pills being made!
Placeholder
Mind Games - Sports Psychology
Placeholder
Fuel to Win - Sports Nutrition
Placeholder
Fifty years since Australia beat the world to space
Placeholder
ECR Network: Talk Your Science with Alan Duffy
Placeholder
Andy's Week in Science - chimps, klompen, and clouds
Placeholder
Our robot medicine future - heart huggers and micro biohybrids
Placeholder
Six Awkward Cancer Questions
Placeholder
How do you tell if a whale is left-handed?
Placeholder
She Flies - Turning Girls into Drone Pilots
Placeholder
Andy's Week in Science - Magnetic Fabric, Cancer Treatments, and Echolocation
Placeholder
The Science of Sexuality
Placeholder
Sailing Through Space with Bill Nye
Placeholder
Using Sports Science to Help Olympic Athletes
Placeholder
Three and a Half Minutes of Top Shelf Career Advice
Placeholder
New Space Tech with Andrea Boyd
Placeholder
Kelly Meets the Mars Curiosity Rover
Placeholder
Hearts, Opera, and Tough Conversations - Andy's Week in Science
Placeholder
Bill Nye on Science, Girls, and Saving the World!
Placeholder
2017 Prime Minister's Prizes for Science Part 2
Placeholder
2017 Prime Minister's Prizes for Science Part 1
Placeholder
Who Decides the Law in Space?
Placeholder
Scientists Watch Collision That Created Gravitational Waves
Placeholder
Getting Cold Feet Leads to a Whole New Career
Placeholder
ECR Network - Why Every Scientist Should Be on Twitter - The Benefits
Placeholder
ECR Network - Why Every Scientist Should Be On Twitter - The Fears
Placeholder
Live Podcast - Life Vs Science
Placeholder
Origami Robots, Babies, and Kidneys - Andy's Week in Science
Placeholder
Namira Salim and the Zero-G Peace Summit
Placeholder
Elon Musk's Mars Plan: Expert Analysis
Placeholder
SPACE AF - Thursday
Placeholder
My Time in Space
Placeholder
IAC TV Daily Broadcast - Wednesday
Placeholder
SPACE AF - Wednesday
Placeholder
IAC TV Daily broadcast - Tuesday
Placeholder
SPACE AF - Tuesday
Placeholder
IAC TV daily broadcast - Monday
01:00:41
Placeholder
SPACE AF - Monday
Placeholder
Live from IAC 2017
Placeholder
Brew Ha Ha - Technology Rewrites History
Placeholder
Methamphetamine - Gateway Drug to Parkinson's Disease
Placeholder
Concussion, 3D BioPrinting, and The Universe - Andy's Week in Science
Placeholder
Pulsars, Clearwigs, and Pacemakers - Andy's Week in Science
Placeholder
Revolutions - The Quest to Transform HPV Racing
Placeholder
Brew Ha Ha - Hurricane Irma Blows Away Tesla's Rip Off
Placeholder
Experts React to Alcohol Industry Concealing Cancer Links
Placeholder
Brew Ha Ha - The Limit of Your Lifespan
Placeholder
The Recipient
Placeholder
Think Like a Scientist: Natural Selection in an Outbreak
Placeholder
The End of Snow
Placeholder
The Next Rembrandt
Placeholder
The Discarded
Placeholder
The Spectators
Placeholder
Test Tube Babes
Placeholder
Pangolins in Peril- A Story of Rare Scales
Placeholder
Rock Art Project
Placeholder
Pork.0
Placeholder
OWSIA (Darkened Water)
Placeholder
Nex
Placeholder
Northern Quolls
Placeholder
Dish Life
Placeholder
At Street Level
Placeholder
Custom Love
Placeholder
Adrift
Placeholder
A Story from Space
Placeholder
Brew Ha Ha - The Most Dangerous Thing in Boxing May Be the Gloves
Placeholder
ECR Network 2017 – Get Interdisciplinary!
01:27:00
Placeholder
Chris Hadfield: The Future of Space Exploration
Placeholder
Chris Hadfield: Life After Space
Placeholder
Chris Hadfield: Life in Space
Placeholder
Brew Ha Ha - Let's Make Algae Australian of the Year
Placeholder
Brew Ha Ha - Australia's Energy Showdown
Placeholder
Nine Awkward Astrophysicist Questions
Placeholder
Brew Ha Ha - There's No Such Thing as an Exercise Pill
Placeholder
National Science Week Awards Show
Placeholder
ECR Network 2017 - Grant Writing Workshop
Placeholder
Brew Ha Ha - Your 5 Step Asteroid Success Plan
Placeholder
National Science Week Forecast
Placeholder
Open Doors. Open Future. Open Day.
Placeholder
Brew Ha Ha - Lose a Little to Gain Millions
Placeholder
Brew Ha Ha - Crowd Sourcing Origami Astronaut Protection
Placeholder
Brew Ha Ha - T-Rex's Prehistoric Power Walk
Placeholder
True or False with Kale Brock
Placeholder
The Grandfather Paradox
Placeholder
Brew Ha Ha - The Hidden Heroes Tackling Mozzies
Placeholder
Brew Ha Ha - Emergency AI Assistance
Placeholder
Brew Ha Ha - Frogs Forever, Dinosaurs Never!
Placeholder
Brew Ha Ha - Australia, Let's Go To Space
Placeholder
Brew Ha Ha - Welcome to the Microbiome, Archaea!
Placeholder
Brew Ha Ha - Roos Blindside Driverless Cars
Placeholder
Biodiversity of Antarctica Under Threat From Increase In Ice-Free Areas
Placeholder
Brew Ha Ha - The Future of the Census
Placeholder
Tell Me! Brian Cox
Placeholder
Crash, Burn, Tweak, Repeat
Placeholder
Brew Ha Ha - Humans Just Got Older and Wiser
Placeholder
Brew Ha Ha - Cheers to Brain Health?
Placeholder
Gene Therapy Could Cure Allergies
Placeholder
Brew Ha Ha - iHeart Hacking
Placeholder
Ridiculology - New Hubble
Placeholder
Brew Ha Ha - Trees Alone Can't Save Us
Placeholder
Brew Ha Ha - Earth's Accidental Force Field
Placeholder
Dinosaurs on the Big Screen
Placeholder
Brew Ha Ha - Farewell MP3
Placeholder
Kids Beat Grown-ups on Pneumonia Vaccines
Placeholder
Brew Ha Ha - The Booger Conspiracy
Placeholder
FameLab 2017 National Final - Part 2
Placeholder
FameLab 2017 National Final - Part 1
Placeholder
2017 Budget Response
Placeholder
What Are Animal Weapons?
Placeholder
If You Love Both Art and Science, Be a Scientific Illustrator
Placeholder
Getting Personal With Skinks
Placeholder
Brew Ha Ha - CSIRO Email Leaks
Placeholder
FameLab 2017 Western Australia Semi-Final Highlights
Placeholder
Brew Ha Ha - New Hope for Premmies
Placeholder
Brew Ha Ha - Britain Goes Coal-Free
Placeholder
Brew Ha Ha - Naked Mole-Rats (SFW)
Placeholder
Brew Ha Ha - Easter Reminders
Placeholder
Meet Andrea Boyd - Space Flight Controller
Placeholder
Brew Ha Ha - Sperm Drug Smugglers
Placeholder
FameLab 2017 New South Wales Semi-Final Highlights
Placeholder
The Science of Fiction
Placeholder
Brew Ha Ha - Liquorice Poisoning
Placeholder
Brew Ha Ha - Crowdsourcing Science
Placeholder
FameLab 2017 Queensland Semi-Final Highlights
Placeholder
Brew Ha Ha - SpaceX Preps for Relaunch
Placeholder
Poly Cystic Ovary Syndrome Breakthrough
Placeholder
Brew Ha Ha - Surviving a Media Storm
Placeholder
Will This Aussie Team Win the Race to Create the Ultimate Malaria Vaccine?
Placeholder
Brew Ha Ha - New Dino Family Tree
Placeholder
How to fix things with Kyle Wiens
Placeholder
Repair or replace? iFixit co-founder Kyle Wiens
Placeholder
Special Investigation - No Alternative to Cancer
Placeholder
Brew Ha Ha - Raspberry Pi is Number 3 Best-Selling Computer
Placeholder
If reefs can't adapt, are they doomed?
Placeholder
Art, Music, Science, Society - Sir Tim Smit Has Thoughts On It All
Placeholder
Assembling the Best Team (according to Sir Tim Smit)
Placeholder
What's up with the Rogue Ginger?
Placeholder
Make Me A Martian
Placeholder
Brew Ha Ha - Recognising the Ethical Dilemma in Facial Tracking Software
Placeholder
Science Communication Around the Globe
Placeholder
Brew Ha Ha - Elon to the Rescue
Placeholder
Sing Us a Song, Spaceman!
Placeholder
Feather Map Of Australia Citizen Science Project
Placeholder
Tim Jarvis vs Mountain: Neuroscience
Placeholder
Brew Ha Ha - Don't Pee in the Pool!
Placeholder
Brew Ha Ha - A New Organ That's as Old as You Are
Placeholder
Brew Ha Ha - Australia's Bill of Sexual Health
Placeholder
Budget 2016 - The Science Forecast
Placeholder
Ideas Boom - What the Innovation Statement Means for You
Placeholder
Celebrating the 2016 Prime Minister's Prizes for Science
Placeholder
Behind the Scenes at Science Meets Parliament 2016
Placeholder
ECRN - Publish or Perish - A Trip Down the Ugly Side
Placeholder
ECRN - Publish or Perish with Corey Bradshaw
Placeholder
ECRN - Publish or Perish with Angela Eggleston
Placeholder
Coral Bleaching Explained: the story of Frank the coral
Placeholder
The Amazing Life Cycle of the European Eel
Placeholder
Zero Gravity
Placeholder
ECRN - Grant Writing Workshop
Placeholder
ECRN - Managing the Balance
Placeholder
ECRN - Research Linkages with Industry
Placeholder
ECRN - Alternative Careers with Dr Leigh Guerin
Placeholder
ECRN - How to Collaborate with Industry
Placeholder
ECRN - Alternative Careers Q&A
Placeholder
ECRN - Collaborating with Industry
Placeholder
Ground Control to Major Chris
Placeholder
Jane Elith - Life Scientist of the Year, 2015 Prime Minister's Prizes for Science
Placeholder
Graeme Jameson - winner of Prize for Innovation, 2015 Prime Minister's Prizes for Science
Placeholder
Graham Farquhar – Scientist of the Year, 2015 Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science
Placeholder
Tim Jarvis vs Mountain: Endurance