More funding needed to support Australian presence in global space race

Max Blenkin

No one has ever suggested space activities were cheap, especially on an international stage, where Australia aspires to be.

More funding needed to support Australian presence in global space race
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The Space Industry Association of Australia (SIAA), founded in 1992 to promote the growth of the Australian space industry, has given an interesting insight into what investments of particular sums will buy.

This was contained in the SIAA submission to the Australian Space Agency on the government’s $15 million International Space Investment initiative.

ISI is intended to support certain as yet undecided projects with international space agencies, boosting linkages, as well as the domestic space sector.

To put the $15 million funding into perspective, the SIAA cited some examples based on member experience, which give a rough indication of the funding levels required for different tiers of engagement with international space projects.

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Starting at the bottom, SIAA said $250,000 would buy a concept of operations or a slight improvement in a software tool or start of engagement with an international space entity.

Doubling that to $500,000 buys a slight improvement or readiness maturity in a hardware device or investigation for a new standard with some indirect association with an international space entity.

 

A full $1 million buys a project proposal to work with an international space entity.

Going to $3-5 million buys a top up of a current project or only the start of a new project with international space entity involvement.

Finally, $5-10 million buys a start on a significant space infrastructure project for the local space industry ecosystem, with some international space entity involvement.

SIAA said only the last two items were likely to boost the Australian space industry on a trajectory able to deliver sustainable growth and jobs to meet the Australian Space Strategy objectives.

That goal is no less than to triple the size of the Australian space sector from $3.9 billion to $12 billion and to double the size of the Australian space workforce from 10,000 to 20,000 jobs by 2030.

SIAA said current ISI program funding levels would only allow for two or three of these boost projects, which was unlikely to be sufficient to establish a proper Australian presence in the international space sector.

“In this context the ISI funding would seem to be at the extreme low end of what is realistically required to establish a sustainable Australian presence in the international space marketplace,” it said.

Just the same, SIAA said it welcomed the ISI initiative as a first very small step towards reaching the agency's long-term strategic objectives.

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