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 around $4billion/year on space [purchasing satellite data]
  • A Space Agency saves 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 finally chose 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 consolidates 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 did Australia spend on space before the Space Agency? Did we even have the budget? 

Australian civil space budget for space has been between $3billion – $5billion each year, spread out across 17 different agencies and departments. The Department of Industry alone spends on average $89million/year specifically purchasing satellite data and the other departments don’t list it so clearly, as it’s considered under other budget lines, so you have to dig further to consolidate the overall figures. 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.

 

Why hasn’t Australia joined ESA?

Ignorance and pressure in the 70s from American Military. Government Reps did not have the technical competence to understand space and had been burnt by many scams over the years. In addition, a small minority with vested interests and very loud voices did 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. ESA offered Australia membership five times and now a sixth time presented an 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 would be 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, contracts, 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 and it is finally on the table for serious discussion again, if Australia can bring something to offer a potential partnership.

The new agency has signed agreements already with many national space agencies and the larger more detailed discussions such as ESA, DLR, NASA, CNSA and others are ongoing in the background.

 

What branch of the Government dealt with Space?

It was under the Department of Jobs and Innovation (formerly Industry, Innovation and Science (formerly many other names – that department has changed names many times. Thankfully Science is back in the name in the new version and back when it wasn’t it was still covered under this portfolio)). Surprisingly to many, they did have a Civil Space Coordination Office, which mostly performed admin domestically and caused quite some diplomatic disasters overseas. It was briefly combined with the Cyberspace office (terrible idea) and was finally taken over by the Federal Space Agency minus Cyber  http://www.industry.gov.au/industry/IndustrySectors/space/Civil-space-coordination/Pages/default.aspx. Since 2018 of course all of that has been superseded by a proper national space agency.

 

Who is the Minister for Space? 

The Hon Karen Andrews MP was sworn in as Minister for Industry, Science and Technology on 28 August 2018. She is a Mechanical Engineer with a strong background in Australian Industry, including an excellent understanding of the space industry.

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 (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.

 

Additional Background: Temporarily staffed by The Hon Michaelia Cash (and formerly, critical for the formation of the Australian Space Agency: 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 was 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 was undergoing cancer treatment. He was thankfully declared cancer free in February 2019 and has returned to Parliament.

 

Prior to that The Hon Minister Ian Macfarlane and The Hon Minister Christopher Pyne and The Hon Minister Sinodinos had been long time supporters of Australia establishing a proper Federal Space Agency but did not yet have enough support to create one until recently. In 2014 Minister Macfarlane assisted in instigating a much needed change in the old 1998 Space Activities Act as well as supported Australia’s bid for the International Astronautical Congress. In February 2016 Minister Pyne opened a dedicated meeting in parliament with a brilliant speech (no notes!) to start the period of public submissions for space legislation changes. In September 2016 a speech was given by an expat space engineer in a closed bilateral session of Parliament which resulted in a volunteer group of experts writing a fast delivery report of how to create a space agency that was expanded in more detail when the Department agreed and requested a second more in depth report by the expert volunteers in early 2017. In July 2017 a public group was created 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 closed the request for public submissions 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.

 

What Space Law does Australia have?

One piece of legislation mostly, and it was a copy/paste rush job in 1998 that had 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 2014 this was finally addressed and the multiyear process started to change it. 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, completed in April 2018. If you want to make further inputs in addition to the 2016 submissions for future consideration, email enquiries AT space.gov.au

The new legislation was finally published in 2018 under the Space Activities Amendment (Launches and Returns) Act 2018 and is already proving to be a great asset to the industry: https://www.industry.gov.au/regulation-and-standards/space-regulation

 

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…

 

Where will the Australian Space Agency be located?

There is a presence in all States and the main Headquarters will be on North Terrace, Adelaide, South Australia. There is a dedicated state of the art building at Lot14, that houses the agency, defence primes, industry and academia all together. Offices of all sizes and budget are available in the building: https://renewalsa.sa.gov.au/projects/lot-fourteen/#join_our_neighbourhood

 

Where can I apply for a job at the Australian Space Agency?

All jobs will be advertised on the APS Website https://www.apsjobs.gov.au/ 

 

 

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