The Science Party space policy is to:

  • Establish an Australian Government Space Agency: ASTRA (Australian Space Technology & Research Agency) and accept the invitation from the European Space Agency to become an associate member; and
  • Introduce regulations that encourage the building and development of space infrastructure in Australia; and
  • Undertake a Space Innovation and Growth Strategy Study.

1. Establish a space agency

1.1: Establish an Australian Government Space Agency: ASTRA (Australian Space Technology & Research Agency).

An Australian Government space agency will properly inform the government on space-related matters and develop international collaborations, especially by accepting the invitation from the European Space Agency (ESA) to become an associate member. An Australian Space Agency will serve many purposes including:

  • Developing a strong, internationally recognised, Australian space expertise and capability;
  • Creating partnerships with Australian and international government stakeholders such as NASA, CSA, ESA and JAXA;
  • Creating partnerships between Australian and international private stakeholders in space;
  • Providing strong economic, educational, governmental, and strategic benefits;
  • Providing structure for further research into space and space-based technologies; and
  • Developing space policy and legal refinements and initiatives to support the goals of the agency.

Space provides exciting opportunities for advancing humanity. Technological development occurring in space research and related fields has already provided us with new technology in the fields of communication, transportation, energy, physics and biology. Some of these technologies are used regularly by people all over the world.

As an associate member of ESA, Australia would benefit economically (Canada receives an equal return or greater for every dollar they contribute to ESA). This is in addition to contracts and projects from other space agencies like NASA, and those in our region. The Japanese Space Exploration Agency (JAXA) in particular, presents outstanding growth and innovation opportunities for Australia.

The Science Party believes that Australia has the potential to be not only a user of space and associated technologies, but also a hub of space investment and technological development. Australia provides an opportunity for a number of niche markets to develop and contribute to the international space industry.

2. Incentivise Australian space infrastructure

2.1: Introduce regulations that encourage the building and development of space infrastructure in Australia.

The Science Party believes that the conditions for the development of an Australian infrastructure, such as a Spaceport, are ideal due to recent technological developments in the space industry. Reusable launch vehicles, nanosatellites and emerging research and commercialisation in the space industry would benefit greatly from Australia’s unique location and contribution.

Currently our nation spends billions of dollars on space goods and services. We are paying full price, as a retail customer. By entering the space supply chain, we can move to a wholesale exchange of products and services, which will benefit the economy and employment. Australia currently has no mechanism to maximise the commercial return from our industry research and we lack a sufficiently coordinated and concentrated effort to build a viable space industry. Science Party policy is to investigate the commercial, environmental and defence feasibility of the construction (or reactivation) and operation of space launch facilities on Australian territory.

3. Define a strategy

3.1: Undertake a Space Innovation and Growth Strategy Study.

One of the first activities of the newly established Australian Space Agency will be to undertake a Space Innovation and Growth Strategy Study. This study would be a joint Australian government-industry initiative to define a clear 20-year vision and strategy for the future growth of the Australian space industry.

It will:

  • Establish a target for Australia to capture three per cent of the global space market within 10 years;
  • Consolidate results of studies already conducted under the Australian Government Space Coordination Committee, the Space Industry Association of Australia and the current review of the 1998 Space Activities Act;
  • Define a clear vision and set achievable goals for the industry;
  • Enable Australia to develop a strong space industry, and offset the risks of depending primarily on foreign space capabilities;
  • Position Australians to solve major scientific and technological problems;
  • Actively nurture, coordinate, and manage Australia’s investment in space science;
  • Leverage increased public investment in space science; and
  • Provide government, community and business with the information needed to guide investment in space science and technology.

With a very large group of experts in astronomy and space science, along with experts from industry and business, the Science Party believes that the scientific, educational and industry aims of the report align with our focus on science, technology, innovation, education and economic reform. The Science Party thinks Australia should be a place that is known for not only its innovation with existing space-based technologies but also an innovator in the field and a provider of world class facilities and programs.

According to the 2015 Space Report, produced annually by The Space Foundation in the US, the global space economy (consisting of launch and ground services, satellite manufacturing and operations, satellite television and communications, government exploration, military spending, and other interests) grew by 9% in 2014 reaching a total worldwide revenue of AU$430 billion. This is expected to grow to AU$1 trillion over the next 20 years.

The Space Industry Association’s 2015 report on Australian space capabilities estimated that the Australian space industry is now generating revenue in the range of AU$3 to 4 billion per annum, or approximately 0.6% to 0.9% of the existing world market.

Australians are already innovating. A viable space industry is fundamental to developing the smart technology industries that will take Australia into the future.

4. Discussion

Space technologies are an integral part of our lives today, even if we don’t realise it. Modern economies would fail without space assets such as GPS that not only help us navigate, but also provide precision timing for almost all critical infrastructure sectors. Development in space research and related fields has already provided us with new technology in the fields of communication, transportation, energy, physics and biology, and offers further exciting opportunities for humanity to advance itself in the future.

Despite the importance of space-based products and services to Australia, this country has long had a “freeloader” approach to satellite utilisation. The satellite data we use for national infrastructure, emergency services, environmental monitoring and to help address our primary industry issues is provided for free from other countries. During the Black Saturday bushfires, Victoria’s Country Fire Authority received satellite data on fire movements from China and the US. Australian owned and developed Earth observation satellites could monitor fire and flood risk and support crop monitoring, mineral exploration, salinity mapping, town planning and infrastructure development using sensors optimised for Australian environmental conditions.

With advent of microsatellites (CubeSats), the cost of satellites is decreasing from hundreds of millions to hundreds of thousands of dollars. CubeSats are a disruptive force in the space industry and present great opportunities for Australia. CubeSats have great potential to provide data services in arenas normally set for much larger players but which have only recently become commercially viable.

The Science Party believes it is essential for Australia to be more than simply a user and consumer of space products, services and associated technologies. Our Space Policy will provide strong economic, educational, governmental, and strategic benefits. This country has the potential to become a key part of the entire space value chain and a hub for space investment and technological development. Australia already has significant strengths in certain niche areas of space technology, such as the processing and analysis of space data products, Australian-made sapphire circuit boards are currently making their way across Mars on NASA’s roving vehicles.

Australia needs to be smarter about space. While space technology development is expensive, the costs are coming down and the financial rewards from spin-off technology to national industries are enormous.

Establishing an Australian Space Agency would help to stimulate new spin-off technology products, manufacturing technologies and export opportunities. The Science Party wants Australia to be known not only for its innovation with existing space-based technologies, but also an innovator in the technologies of the future and a provider of world-class facilities and programs.

Space industry disruption presents a great opportunity for Australia. Reduced costs due to the emergence of CubeSats and other commercial developments means we can be one of the first countries to enjoy the "democratisation" of space, i.e., commercial data users. The local production of CubeSats would provide a significant national benefit, giving Australia greater control over the cost of our own data, and spawn new business uses in agriculture, mining, banking, IoT, and anything creative people can think of.

The Science Party believes that this clear, well-supported space policy will help to stimulate and coordinate Australia’s much needed transition from a resources- and construction- driven economy to that of an innovative, high technology, high value-added economy that will attract and retain our best and brightest minds and serve as an inspiration to the next generation.


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