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Without space tech, we live in a Mad Max world: ASPI

Max Blenkin

Australia depends on space and without the capabilities delivered by satellite, Australia would revert to a Mad Max society and the Defence Force would be deaf, dumb and blind, says Australian Strategic Policy Institute senior analyst Dr Malcolm Davis.

Without space tech, we live in a Mad Max world: ASPI
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Dr Davis said mobile phones to a large degree depended on GPS and the stock market required satellite communications.

"If space goes down our economy goes down and the way I describe it … we end up in Mad Max world. Where it is chaotic and the economy is in tatters," he told the University of NSW Future Warfare Conference in Canberra.

The Australian Defence Force also depends on space delivered capabilities such as communications and GPS.


"Without space we can’t do that. We can’t fight war in the way we desire. We are deaf, dumb and blind. We can’t talk to our forces, we can’t co-ordinate," Dr Davis said.

He said the ADF was aware of this and more than any previous Defence white paper, the 2016 White Paper made it clear that space was important and that it couldn’t be assumed we would always have access to important capabilities.

Dr Davis said the Australian Space Agency was established in July 2018 and its principal goal was to promote the growth of Australia’s space industry.

"That’s a really important step because it takes us down the path of having the ability to develop a sovereign space capability. We are growing rapidly at the small space start-up level," he said.


Dr David said there was a link between civil space and Defence space that needed to be considered in more depth.

"In other words, rather than Defence developing space hardware themselves or contracting to an offshore prime, how can Australian space industry help defence to develop that hardware," he said.

"It gives Australia a whole pile of new options more than simply having ground-based space programs or space situational awareness. We can invest in sovereign manufacture of small satellite CubeSat technologies and we can develop sovereign space launch capability."

Dr David said the Australian Defence Force of the 2030s should have as an operationally responsive space capability to allow launch of satellites in direct support of Australian forces as needed.

"Having Australian satellites launched from Australian launch sites on Australian launch vehicles in support of an Australian joint task force deployed abroad – that’s operationally responsive space," he said.

"That is an area we can develop in the future."

Dr Davis said Australia needed to establish regional space leadership through a multinational space consortium so that Australia could offer new space capabilities to our key neighbours.

"Australia can also lead in niche capability development and experimentation as we develop this new area. Hypersonics is the key area that can apply itself to space in terms of a rapid launch, and enhance ADF capabilities," he said.

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