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‘Idle’ space sector needs urgent help, warns engineers body

Federal and state governments must be more proactive in helping the local space industry because it was ignored for too long, Engineers Australia has warned.

In a new advice paper, the peak body advised policymakers to “urgently” prioritise establishing more homegrown capabilities rather than relying on help from other countries.

“Australia has been standing idle for 40 years while the rest of the developed world has been making progress, evolving their own capabilities, capacity, and workforce,” it concluded.

The intervention comes after last year’s axing of three major government-backed programs, including the $1.2 billion National Space Mission for Earth Observation (NSMEO).


The new paper, which you can read here, was authored by former Australian Space Agency executive director Anntonette Dailey, Swinburne University Professor Peter Moar, and Earthspace founder Roger Franzen.

It argues space has increasingly become essential to our everyday lives, so governments must take a more interventionist approach because there is now “no time left” to play catch up.

Among its recommendations is a plan to subsidise the cost of space simulation testing and establish a national training institute for space.

“Funding alone will not solve the establishment of an internationally trusted Australian space industry,” the paper stated.


“It will require a structured plan to build the necessary human and physical resources that form the capability and capacity supply pyramid.

“Australia will not be able to replace all imported space capabilities, but the planning process should account for an appropriate level of import replacement, sovereign capability, and resilience.

“As the benefits and impact of space go well beyond a niche sector and across jurisdictional boundaries – space has a grounding impact on the nation’s manufacturing acumen – the Australian government in conjunction with states and territories need to act urgently.”

The report, titled, Growing and Sustaining Australia’s Space Engineering Capability and Competency, was created by Engineers Australia’s National Committee on Space Engineering (NCSpE). The organisation aims to be the voice of the space engineering profession in Australia.

Engineers Australia is the latest group to speak out and urge governments to do more to help the sector after the axing of the NSMEO alongside cutting a $32.3 million pledge to help Australia’s spaceports and the scaling back of South Australia’s Australian Space Park.

Swinburne University professor Alan Duffy said the cuts had a “chilling factor” on the sector, while Equatorial Launch Australia chief executive officer Michael Jones went further, accusing space of now being a low priority for the new government.

“Call it what it is: the lack of federal government support with the change in government makes me nervous, and it makes the job really hard,” he said at last year’s Australian Space Summit.

Adam Thorn

Adam Thorn

Adam is a journalist who has worked for more than 40 prestigious media brands in the UK and Australia. Since 2005, his varied career has included stints as a reporter, copy editor, feature writer and editor for publications as diverse as Fleet Street newspaper The Sunday Times, fashion bible Jones, media and marketing website Mumbrella as well as lifestyle magazines such as GQ, Woman’s Weekly, Men’s Health and Loaded. He joined Momentum Media in early 2020 and currently writes for Australian Aviation and World of Aviation.

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