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Arthur Sinodinos

Australian Government announces review into space industry capabilities

The Federal Government has announced today it will be conducting a review into local space industry capabilities, with the findings to be actioned into a long-term plan that will focus on growing the sector.

Led by an Expert Review Group, the review will look to expand upon Australia’s 2013 Satellite Utilisation Policy, which outlines priorities for the use of space technologies, as well as the proposals made from the Space Activities Act review to bring Australia’s space regulations in line with technological advancements, with regulation reforms expected to take place this year.

Based around a number of focus areas, the review will look at Australia’s existing capabilities in the space sector and areas of strength, collaboration opportunities both regionally and internationally, the risks and opportunities involved with access to space data and associated infrastructure, and how the space industry aligns with other government sectors.

Technologies and practices to promote innovation in the space industry will also be reviewed, particularly those pertaining to areas of “niche capability and competitive advantage”, as well as strategies to promote Australian firms engaged with the space sector, capability gaps, and “institutional arrangements” that best support the industry.

Announcing the review today, Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, Arthur Sinodinos, said the review comes at a “timely” stage for the government, considering the accelerating growth of the international space industry.

“The space industry sector has been growing at a compound annual growth rate of 9.52 per cent from 1998 to 2015, more than three times the annual growth rate of world GDP in the same period. Globally, revenue from space-related activities in 2015 was about US$323 [AU$421] billion,” he said.

“The Australian Government wants to ensure the right framework and mix of incentives are in place to assist Australia’s growing space industry sector to participate successfully in this global market.”

Locally, Australia’s space sector has seen growth beside a number of spacetech startups emerging, particularly in the niche of smallsats (small satellites).

Adelaide-based startup Fleet is working to launch a network of over 100 nanosatellites to create a global low-bandwidth network for Internet of Things (IoT) devices, while Gilmour Space Technologies (GST) looks to provide an affordable path to smallsat launch, and Cuberider is working to launch its next payload to space.

While these technologies gradually become smaller, cheaper and more capable, the progress of these spacetechs are slowed by local regulations, high costs, and extensive wait times.

GST founder Adam Gilmour recently spoke out about the issue, calling upon the Australian government to develop initiatives to grow the local space industry.

Commencing this month and expected to wrap up by March next year, Sinodinos said the review will look to inform a “strategic framework” to support opportunity, innovation, and entrepreneurship within the Australian space sector.

I believe that Australia can participate in the global space sector and through development of the technical capability and knowledge required for this demanding sector, we will develop skills to grow other advanced manufacturing industries in Australia,” he said.

Leading the Expert Review Group will be chair by Dr Megan Clark, former CSIRO chief executive.

Joining the group will be a number of key figures from the space sector, including UNSW Professor Russell Boyce, Professor Anna Moore from the Australian National University’s Research School of Astronomy & Astrophysics, and Fleet CEO, Flavia Tata Nardini.

Image: Arthur Sinodinos. Source: Supplied.