After announcing plans for the launch of an Australian space agency last September, the Australian Government is set to announce $50 million in funding to establish the organisation in Tuesday’s Budget.
Revealing the news, the ABC reported that former CSIRO chief executive Dr Megan Clark, who most recently headed up a government review of the space sector, will lead the agency for its first year.
According to the ABC, the $50 million is to be considered ‘seed funding’ for the agency, with the long term plan for the agency to be funded by the private sector.
The launch of a local space agency has been a long time coming, with industry insiders having frequently pointed out the economic benefits.
A white paper released last year by the Space Industry Association of Australia (SIAA) estimated that, with its 0.8 percent share of the global space economy, the Australian space sector currently produces annual revenues of between $3-4 billion, employing between 9,500 to 11,500 people.
The SIAA believes the establishing of an Australian space agency by the government to lead a “cohesive national space strategy” could see these figures double within five years, with the Agency’s long-term aim to capture 4 percent of the world market within 20 years.
Flavia Tata Nardini, founder of Adelaide-based, Blackbird Ventures-backed space startup Fleet, last year wrote an open letter to the Government pushing for the launch of an agency, explaining that Australian space startups could be forced to move overseas if they didn’t receive local support.
“Many businesses in the industry will survive with or without a dedicated space agency, but they rely purely on private sector or overseas funding. Others may not — many space tech startups simply can’t afford to stay in Australia as they face impossibly competitive challenges against foreign businesses already backed by major agencies,” wrote Nardini.
A review into Australia’s space industry capabilities was then ordered by former Minister for Innovation, Arthur Sinodinos last July, with then-Acting, now current Minister for Innovation, Michaelia Cash in September announcing that the government would be launching a national space agency.
In the meantime, a raft of Australian space startups have received funding.
Adelaide-founded Myriota, for example, in March raised US$15 million ($19.35 million) in a Series A round led Blue Sky Venture Capital and the CSIRO’s Main Sequence Ventures, with participation from firms including Right Click Capital and Boeing through its HorizonX Ventures arm.
Spun out of the University of Adelaide in 2015, Myriota works with low-earth orbit nanosatellites and ground-based micro-transmitters to enable low-powered, two-way communication, allowing for the low-cost sharing of data to and from remote locations.
Meanwhile, the CSIRO in January announced an expansion of its long-running partnership with Boeing that will see the two organisations perform joint research and development in space technologies.
Highlighting the fact a national Australian space agency on its way, the CSIRO stated the research will explore opportunities for space infrastructure and ground-based space facilities in Australia “that could be beneficial for a range of space-related activities”, with scientists from Australia and the US to collaborate on the developing needs of the Australian space market.
Image source: CSIRO.