Space is expensive. Can we send <insert names here> one way to space? Aliens! What a joke, spend the money on schools and hospitals. Australia has enough problems on Earth. What do we need to waste money on a space cadet thing for??

  • Australia already spends $4billion/year on space [purchasing satellite data]
  • A Space Agency would save billions of dollars – the surplus can be used for whatever.
  • Australians are 100% dependant in every day life on satellite data: weather, GPS, phone apps, ATM transactions, banking, live sport on TV, live news, remote community internet, satellite phones, coastal protection, bushfire monitoring, flood monitoring and response, the surf report etc… all of this is space.
  • Space is a $420billion dollar industry growing at over 10%/year and Australia is 92% import, spending billions annually buying other nations’ satellite data for this.
  • Australia + islands + oceans = 1/6th of Earth! Want to fly a dozen planes over that every day or have one satellite?
  • On the same rocket as the first NBN satellite, Skymuster 1, was a 100% Argentinean designed and built satellite, also for broadband internet – a country with a GDP per capita five times smaller than Australia’s, and which has its own space agency.

For Australia space is about doing things we already pay for and need as a nation better, cheaper, more effectively using satellites.

  • Every other developed nation has a Space Agency. Even New Zealand.
  • Most developing countries also have a Space Agency to save money and ensure quality of life. Even Ethiopia.

space agencies around the world

  • Australia has finally chosen in September 2017 to forge a long lasting industry by creating a national space agency now which has a mandate, authority, technical competence, a modest 5 year budget and major 5-10year international partnerships to make it election cycle proof.
  • Australians use space in their every day lives, depend on it and pay for it dearly at whatever inflated price the satellite owners set and despite this we do not even have secure access. (like in the last USA Sequestration we lost all bushfire monitoring in the height of bushfire season). A space agency will consolidate all that to massively reduce costs through international partnerships, ensure secured access to data through these partnerships and create a local industry that won’t close down in the future.

 

How much does Australia spend on space? Do we even have the budget? 

Australian civil space budget for space is quite a bit. The Department of Industry alone spends on average $89million/year purchasing satellite data. Check out the latest reports & download some of them.

https://industry.gov.au/AboutUs/Budget/Pages/Budget-2016-17.aspx

http://www.industry.gov.au/innovation/reportsandstudies/Pages/SRIBudget.aspx 

http://www.ga.gov.au/news-events/news/latest-news/the-budget-2016-17

http://www.bom.gov.au/inside/eiab/reports/ar15-16/

etc… There are currently 17 different Australian Departments and Agencies in addition to all the State Government GIS Departments and Optus/NBN sending billions of dollars overseas to purchase satellite data. See a summary slideshow here.

Australia spends $3billion – $5billion on space every year…. to do what? To purchase satellite data.
The $2billion deltas are the stand alone purchases like Optus and NBN satellites which cost $2billion each, paid to SSL and $900million per launch paid to Ariane (zero Australian involvement except footing the bill). CSIRO has a new $10.45 million, seven-year deal to access 10% of data from the new NovaSAR satellite, the first time it has had direct data rights, but still just paying, not participating.
Military space it’s hard to know -we’ve heard estimates from $2billion to $7billion per year. In speeches Milspace Aussies often says $5billion. The ADF bought one satellite in the US satcom fleet a few years back and that by itself cost $1billion.
Military Space and Civil Space are two separate fields and should not be confused in the same discussion.

Contrast that to a long standing European Space Agency to Agency partnership  opportunity of just $5m/year to participate actively in space science and engineering, to gain knowledge and tech transfer, to retain IP, to build hardware and software in Australia, to actually send things to space: all $5m is given back to Australia in industrial contracts and grants. Australia would pay itself. ESA would bring Australia up to speed of the last 50+ years we missed. For 0.1% of the price Australia currently pays just to buy baseline data we would have: Jobs, work, exports, customers, guaranteed markets and the same data we already buy as that pricetag includes ESA’s Earth Observation optional program. 5 to 10 year agreement, immune to political cycles. We should be doing this. ESA has offered this to Australia four times. Why hasn’t Australia joined ESA? Ignorance and pressure in the 70s from American Military. Government Reps do not have the technical competence to understand space and has been burnt by many scams over the years. In addition, a small minority with vested interests and very loud voices do not want Australia to have a Civil Space Agency at all. ESA can only make such a legal agreement with the Head of a Space Agency. A serious Federal response can make this happen anytime.

SA and ACT have said they would host the engineering centre and admin centre respectively and pay for it, South Australia already opened one of the state centres, the engineering hub is in work, Canberra just needs an office for the small admin/legal group, all that remains for the Federal Government to do now is paperwork and leverage the many generous international agency to agency partnerships, and this is part of the March 2018 space agency launch.

Despite such partnerships being very tangibly on the table once again due to the focus on Australia for the International Astronautical Congress in September this year – there has been no active response from the Australian side yet, however this should and must happen together with the official agency launch in 2018. Until now there has been an impression of Australia’s disinterest internationally and a key limitation is the splintered nature of space activities across Australia, which is a direct result of not having a central space agency to constitute a clear point of contact and does little to encourage confidence from international partners. Action needs to be made now to create the agency together with outreach from the Australia Government to the overseas space agencies to acknowledge their goodwill and discuss the current possibilities for partnerships.

What branch of the Government deals with Space?

It’s under the Department of Jobs and Innovation (formerly Industry, Innovation and Science (that department has changed names many times. Thankfully Science is back in the name briefly and though it is no longer, it is still covered under this portfolio)) and surprisingly to many, they do have a Civil Space Coordination Office. It was recently combined with the Cyberspace office (terrible idea) and will soon be taken over by the Federal Space Agency minus Cyber  http://www.industry.gov.au/industry/IndustrySectors/space/Civil-space-coordination/Pages/default.aspx

Who is the Minister for Space? 

Arthur Sinodinos, backed up by Craig Laundy which was recently handed over to Michaela Cash. Minister Sinodinos was very well researched, has extensive experience in economics and a broad overview of Australian departments as well as technical insights into space engineering and science. Minister Cash attended the IAC2017 and saw firsthand what a massive global industry space is however has much to learn. Hearing from voters is the best way to let them know an issue is important. Send letters, emails to the MPs below. Do not rant – write respectfully and professionally – tell them about space and how important it is for daily life in Australia: highlight successes. Don’t plug your personal agenda, but think about Australia as a whole and how we need to start stepping up on the international stage. We have never had a better combination of Ministers in Australia (PM, Defence, Science) regarding Space compared to now. Write to them: They are listening. If you want to propose something to the Australian Government, keep in mind all the past scams, don’t be selfish or try to circumvent ARC grants: Ask yourself “How would the current Govt sell this to the Opposition” and frame your proposal like this. And even more importantly now – please write to the Minister and applaud their creation of a space agency – hearing from voters will give them confidence and written proof to show other part of Government that they made the right decision.

The Hon Michaelia Cash (formerly The Hon Arthur Sinodinos MP)

The Hon Arthur Sinodinos MP was sworn in as Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science on 24 January 2017. Minister Sinodinos is excellent for Science, Engineering and Space. The department was renamed in 2018 to Jobs and Innovation which also covers science and engineering. Hon Michaela Cash MP was sworn in 20 December 2017 as Minister Sinodinos is undergoing cancer treatment.

 

Senator the Hon Zed Seseljawas sworn in as Assistant Minister for Science, Jobs and Innovation on 20 December 2017.

 

The Hon Minister Sinodinos had been a long time supporter of Australia establishing a proper Federal Space Agency but did not yet have enough support to create one until 2017. In July 2017 they created a group to document Australia’s Space Capability by March 2018: https://industry.gov.au/industry/IndustrySectors/space/Pages/Review-of-Australian-Space-Industry-Capability.aspx

In August 2017 they requested urgent public submissions due by August 22nd: Please do make inputs to this and also request a place at the table to discuss in person in your city:  https://consult.industry.gov.au/space-activities/review-of-australian-space-industry-capability/ 

And in September 2017, The Minister was unfortunately extremely ill due to ongoing cancer treatments, but made sure another colleague could still carry the announcement at the Opening Ceremony of the International Astronautical Congress of a new Australian Space Agency!

 

Should I write a letter or email to the Minister in addition to the public submission?

Yes! Letters help enormously. Every written correspondence must be read and replied to. They also are tallied so there is statistical evidence that a topic is of interest to Australia.

More voter letters = more attention is drawn to a topic inside Government.

The standard reply is somewhat uninspiring and always looks like this (the department copy and paste all paragraphs and just edit the first one with a new date):

Standard responseFeel free to address the ‘STEM from NISA’, Industry Growth Centres(?) and the CRC points specifically in your letter so they can’t merely copy/paste a reply.

 

What Space Law does Australia have?

One piece of legislation mostly, and it was a copy/paste rush job in 1998 that has since prohibited any space activity in Australia or even launching cubesats on piggybacks overseas. It’s supplemented by a 2001 legislation. To launch a rocket in the US costs $35k in insurance; to launch the same rocket in Australia costs $750k in insurance. You can see the types of problems this legislation introduced. In 2016 this was finally addressed. Experts met in Canberra in February 2016, public submissions were opened to ask for changes, this closed April 30, 2016 and the final report summarising submissions was submitted to the Federal Government in September 2016. In early April 2017 it was announced that the Space Activities Act 1998 will be completely overhauled – replaced by new legislation and subordinate regulations. The review obviously found that the existing legislation introduced an unnecessary level of inflexibility, resulting in inefficiencies for both applicants and administering agencies. An industry group provided final guidance on this by mid April. If you want to make further inputs in addition to the 2016 submissions, email contactus AT spaceindustry.com.au.   http://www.industry.gov.au/industry/IndustrySectors/space/Pages/Review-of-the-Space-Activities-Act-1998.aspx#header

 

We have Woomera – why don’t we launch from there?

Woomera is and has been for almost 50 years a purely defence area. For a brief period there was an exception for the excellent ASRI sounding rocket campaigns which are sadly no longer allowed since many years and the NASA sounding rocket campaign was also disallowed so NASA are looking to move to Darwin from 2018. There was a single unique Hayabusa landing event and the Woomera Heritage Museum had its first update since 1972. Hopefully Hayabusa 2 might also land there if the Civil Space Office grants permission (JAXA submitted application in 2012, for a 2020s landing, and as of 2016 had yet to receive any reply from Australia. I unofficially heard they finally received a reply in 2017 but no details are public). Woomera has not been a space launch site for almost 50 years and it will not be one again. Woomera is not at a good latitude for launches and it is a defence owned and operated facility with a four year defence waiting list.

 

What about Cape Yorke?

This venture was bankrupt in the 1990s and never revived. There is currently no infrastructure for such a project. There is however infrastructure, land zoning rights and Aboriginal council permissions and advanced levels of progress for a new launch site in Gove, NT by Equatorial Launch Australia.

 

Is the new Space Agency really called ARSE?

No. This site is run by a notorious vapourwear clothing guy from Qld who’s the Trustee For Illinbah Group Trust & the Trustee for Tripp Group Trust. He also runs NT Unofficial (yes *that* ad), Nice Garry and Miton Mangos…

 

 

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