Australian Space Agency head Dr Megan Clark has praised SpaceX, the commercial space business created by US businessman Elon Musk, as revolutionising the space business.
Dr Clark told a lunch event of the Committee for Economic Development Australia (CEDA) last week the SpaceX had upended traditional models in a sector previously dominated by government-backed organisations.
She said the SpaceX work on re-using rocket stages was particularly ground-breaking.
Using expensive rocket components more than once has the potential to further reduce launch costs, with more companies considering how that could be done.
Dr Clark, a former head of the CSIRO and inaugural head of the Australian Space Agency, said the entry of private sector capital from companies like SpaceX had delivered crucial breakthroughs and driven down costs.
Others are Blue Origin, created by the founder of Amazon Jeff Bezos, and Virgin Galactic, founded by British businessman Sir Richard Branson, which is focused on commercial spaceflight and space tourism.
However, SpaceX hasn’t always managed to meet its ambitious deadlines and even NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine has grumbled about the company’s progress on its commitments to the agency.
Dr Clark said the entry of organisations like SpaceX had also overturned the way space exploration was funded.
That would help the advancement of technology and applications in business that would flow through to the broader community, she said.
With more and more communications satellites in space and large constellations planned for low-Earth orbit, an emerging challenge is congestion of the radio frequency spectrum.
Dr Clark said one of the advances from the intersection of space exploration and business was in telecommunications, with use of lasers set to be the next major leap in the search for extra communications capacity.
Although only formed on 1 July last year, ASA has already notched up a long list of achievements in its goal of tripling the space sector’s contribution to Australia’s GDP to $12 billion, and creating up to 20,000 new jobs.
Australian space tech start-up Fleet Space Technologies has already launched small satellites. Two companies, Equatorial Launch Australia and Southern Launch, are planning commercial launch facilities in the Northern Territory and South Australia.
The Australian Space Agency is based in South Australia and will soon shift from its temporary offices into a new permanent headquarters in the Lot Fourteen technology precinct in the Adelaide CBD.
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