September 2017 Opinion

Call for Australia to head back into space

Duncan Blake University of Adelaide, Australia

ROOM is an open forum for comment and opinion - and actively encourages contributions. To promote debate, discussion and inspiration we regularly publish commentaries and opinions by space leaders and those involved directly or indirectly in aerospace and space exploration. Here, with the spotlight of the international space industry about to fall on Australia, Duncan Blake asks if the country has become ‘lost in space’ and suggests a new impetus might be afoot with the possibility of a national space agency even in the offing.

Adelaide will host the International Astronautical Congress (IAC) this September - the biggest conference in the global space community’s annual calendar. Australia, and particularly the state of South Australia, has a long heritage in the space industry stretching back to the Woomera rocket range and long-range Weapons Research Establishment (WRE) in 1947 and the launch of WRESAT in 1967 on an American rocket from Woomera, which made Australia the seventh nation to launch its own satellite and only the third to do so from its own territory. Yet, this was the first and only satellite launched from Australian territory, prompting some Australian politicians in the federal parliament to initiate an inquiry in 2008 into how the country had become ‘lost in space’ and what to do to reinvigorate the Australian space industry.

On 21 March 2017 the Space Industry Association of Australia (SIAA) released a white paper ‘Advancing Australia in Space’, in which it asserted that the Australian space sector could, with the ‘right impetus’, double its current annual revenues of approximately US$2.5 billion (about 0.8 percent share of the global space economy) within five years and that four percent global market share could be a realistic goal within 20 years. The ‘right impetus’ would be “the establishment of an Australian Space Agency to lead a cohesive national space strategy”.

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