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18th Australian Space Research Conference

Gold Coast

24 September 2018

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Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you at the 18th Australian Space Research Conference.

I would like to welcome you all to the Gold Coast, which is my home.

It’s great to have some of the best scientific and technological minds from Australia and overseas gathered here.

When you had your conference last year in Sydney, a review of Australia’s space industry capability was well underway.

Since then, we’ve made significant strides towards expanding the nation’s space industry.

The Coalition Government has established Australia’s first-ever national space agency and it’s already up and running.

We invested more than $300 million in space related activities in our Budget this year.

This includes $41 million for the agency, and $260 million to develop world leading satellite capabilities.

This kind of investment will significantly increase GPS accuracy in our cities and regional areas and improve access to satellite imagery.

And the response has been terrific.

There is strong interest and support at home and abroad for developing Australia’s space industry, as we work to solidify our position as a major player in this field.

Just recently, a resolution was introduced into the US House of Representatives.

It commends Australia for establishing a space agency and affirms our long history of cooperation in space.

I know that industry, universities, research agencies, governments and space aficionados across Australia are all excited about this new chapter in our history.

Australia’s space industry is poised for growth—and it couldn’t have come at a better time.

More than ever, global space activity is gathering momentum, marked by a growing stream of new industry players, alongside the established ones.

It is a seismic shift in an industry that used to be dominated by billion-dollar government programs.

And in that new industry landscape, we’re seeing a healthy mix of small and medium businesses, and larger firms, providing a vast array of technology and services.

These players are making it possible to achieve what few could dream of only a couple of decades ago.

They are offering to bring actual space experience to the broader world.

In 1998, a policy paper prepared for Parliament titled “Australia in Orbit” posed the question:

“Can we all expect to tour in Earth's orbit … in the near future or cruise the space ways in a liner?”[i]

Twenty years on, Australia – and the world - are closer than ever to doing just that.

Last week, Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa announced he had bought all the seats on SpaceX's Big Falcon Rocket to take a trip to the moon.

Elon Musk’s SpaceX is one of many ambitious space projects being pursued by entrepreneurs, including Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson and Robert Bigelow.

They join established players like Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Airbus in commercialising space.

But working with government space agencies must also continue.

There is an emerging shift in the role of government: from that of a sole funder to that of a partner and facilitator.

These partnerships are expected to lead to new ventures, adding to the growing momentum in the industry.

The fact is technology has become cheaper, smaller and more accessible, and the costs to get into space are lower now than they previously have been. This means it is not only big industry that can participate in space.

An array of businesses, large and small, as well as ingenious entrepreneurs, are in the game.

So while the opportunities arising from space industries are almost as limitless as space itself, the benefits from a growing space industry are very local.

For example, a Gold Coast business already making waves on the international stage is Gilmour Space Technologies, a start-up based in Pimpama.

Gilmour is developing low-cost rockets for the fast-growing global small-satellite industry. The company has already launched a low altitude hybrid sounding rocket from Westmar, Queensland and successfully tested their full-scale orbital engine.

Hybrid technology is an innovative propulsion technology that is cleaner and more efficient than traditional rockets.

You will also have read recently about Opaque Space, a Melbourne-based Australian virtual reality company making waves in the US space community.

Opaque is widely reported to be working with NASA on its virtual reality astronaut training simulator.

They have built a simulator that is more efficient than NASA’s own multimillion-dollar models at a fraction of the cost and in a very short time.

Developments like these are helping to build the momentum in the global space industry.

Now worth US$345 billion, the industry is expected to grow dramatically over the next 20 years.
It is in this dynamic global space environment that Australia is taking bold steps into the future.

Australia is well placed to capitalise on the opportunities on offer in this environment.

Our space sector is small but vibrant.

It is a sector with world-class capabilities in fields ranging from satellite and wireless communications to Earth observation data analytics.

Our experience and long history of participating in international space programs are also well known.

For decades, we’ve hosted and maintained tracking stations for NASA and the European Space Agency.

We have operated world-class astronomical observatories and other space-related infrastructure.

And the Coalition Government continues to invest heavily in improving our satellite infrastructure and capability.

Also, we have a solid base for space research in our universities, public research agencies and private institutions.

It goes without saying - research is the bedrock of any area as complex and high tech as the space sector.

The Coalition Government is supporting space research through programs like the Cooperative Research Centre Project.

A research collaboration, led by DefendTex, and including RMIT University, University of New South Wales Sydney, and others, is a good example.

The collaboration has received nearly $3 million under the 5th round of the Cooperative Research Centre Project program and will see industry and researchers working together to design two high thrust engines:

One that can launch satellites into orbit before melting and the other that can be continually re-used.

The new ARC Industrial Transformation Training Centre is another example of how the government is supporting space research.

The Centre will develop a world-class base of expertise in CubeSats and associated technologies, including unmanned aerial vehicles.

A move that will further develop Australia’s research strengths in these quickly evolving new industries to capitalise on the enormous economic potential of new technology.

Seeing so many space researchers, scientists, engineers and educators here today, the future of Australia’s space industry looks very bright.

As global demand increases for space services, we have an opportunity to work together to grow the industry.

With the Australian Space Agency leading the effort, in partnership with industry and the sector as a whole.

The Space Agency is now our central coordination point for national space activities and partnerships.

As you know, the agency commenced operations in July, with Dr Megan Clark as its head.

The agency has the important task of providing strategic direction for Australia’s space efforts.

A task that will help drive growth in our space industry and create new business and job opportunities across Australia.

The Australian space industry already boasts over 380 companies, employs more than 10,000 people and contributes $3.9 billion a year to the economy.

But our share of the US$345 billion global space market is just 0.8 per cent. And we are determined to see this grow.

That said, we have what it takes to gain a greater share of that market and build a new industry for our nation.

The goal is to triple the size of the domestic industry by 2030, adding up to $12 billion to our economy.

This will help create up to 20,000 jobs in Australia.

And our Space Agency is gearing up for the task.

Early indications from the agency are positive.

Megan hit the ground running from day one.

She is building a strong team that will engage with industry, academia and the states and territories to advance this national endeavour.

Through researchers like you, in areas such as astronomy, optical research, quantum technologies and data science, we know Australia has a strong base in space related R&D.

R&D is a priority for the Australian Space Agency.

The short-term opportunities include development of hyperspectral sensors, CubeSats to provide in-space testing and development of new technologies.

Others are synthetic biology and new rocket propulsion technology.

The opportunities are enormous.

The Space Agency is working on developing a strategy and building relationships with all stakeholders.

It is also leading space-related international engagement.

In fact, the agency has already signed its first MOU with the French space agency CNES.

This demonstrates the value of our Space Agency in providing awareness and access to innovative Australian companies working to exploit our competitive advantages.

The MOU specifies space operations, space science, Earth observation and positioning as areas of particular interest to Australian-French collaboration.

Growing our space industry is about growing our future prosperity as a nation.

When we first talk of space, images of rockets come to mind.

But, more importantly, space technology underpins every part of the broader Australian economy.

Communications, agriculture, mining, transport and our day-to-day experiences.

I’m sure many of you driving from interstate and elsewhere will have used GPS to get here.

It is through leveraging the link between space and the broader economy that Australia can truly grow its share of the global economy.

That’s why the Coalition is committed to creating new jobs and inspiring generations to come to be involved in space activities.

With the establishment of the Australian Space Agency, we have a wonderful opportunity to leverage our strengths in this sector in a way that allows businesses across the country to thrive, enter new markets and create jobs.

I encourage you to look at the agency’s new Welcome document, which outlines the opportunity space technology and services bring to all Australians.

Collaboration will be key to the success of our Space Agency and our quest to grow the sector.

The agency has a key partner in CSIRO, whose long history of space-related activities is well known.

CSIRO has built strong capabilities in Earth observation, radio astronomy, space tracking and managing facilities on behalf of the nation.

In the early hours of Monday, 17 September, at 2.38 am AEST to be exact, Australia’s Earth observation capabilities were extended, with the successful launch of the new NovaSAR-1 satellite.

CSIRO has secured a 10 per cent share of tasking and acquisition time over the next seven years on NovaSAR-1.

This provides Australia with significant opportunities to support a wide range of existing research.

Opportunities to further develop Australia’s Earth observation data analytics expertise, and stimulate new commercial exploitation of this data.

Australia’s share of satellite time as a national research facility will be managed by CSIRO.

Access to NovaSAR-1 comes at an important time in the development of the Australian space sector.
CSIRO has developed an industry publication called A roadmap for unlocking future growth opportunities for Australia.

The roadmap provides further context and vision for Australia’s space industry and highlights:

  • key opportunities in three main sectors - Earth observation, space tracking, space exploration and utilisation
  • opportunities and aspirations for growth and collaboration in these three key sectors, and
  • potential developments over the short and long term for Australian technologies and businesses, along with some future scenarios for industry which are there to ignite imaginations and fuel our technical ambitions.

 This new roadmap will help inform the strategic direction the Space Agency is currently developing.

 Ladies and gentlemen, it is my great pleasure to join Dr Larry Marshall to officially launch the CSIRO Space Industry roadmap.

This is an exciting time for Australia’s space industry.

The industry is ready to grow.

We have many strengths.

We have many innovative and energetic researchers and entrepreneurs working to take on this challenge.

The Australian Space Agency will provide an anchor for this national effort to grow the local industry.

But a new space agency is not just about industry.

It is about creating aspirations and provoking dreams of going to the moon and exploring our universe.

We want our young people to shoot for the stars.

We want our Space Agency to inspire them to appreciate the importance of studying STEM and understanding the opportunities it can lead to.

Because we know that STEM can open up great opportunities for new careers into the future.

We cannot be certain about what the jobs of the future are going to be.

But we do know that about three-quarters of these jobs are going to require STEM skills.

Our space agency will help promote opportunities for our young people and give them the chance to aspire to something they may not even have thought about.

I want to thank the National Space Society of Australia and the National Committee for Space and Radio Science for organising this conference.

This program shows that you have a great range of topics to discuss—from space medicine to space law.

The next three days will be exciting – as is the road ahead for Australia.