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Doorstop - Canberra

19 February 2021

Subject:  Modern Manufacturing Initiative and Space road map, and the NASA Perseverance rover


Karen Andrews: This is a very significant day for Australian manufacturing. It’s a particularly important day for the Australian space manufacturing sector. I’m here today to announce that we are launching the first road map, which will lead to funding under the $1.3 billion Modern Manufacturing Initiative. Now, the Modern Manufacturing strategy was announced in October last year. What we committed to was to work with industry to develop roadmaps for each of the six national manufacturing priority sectors. Those road maps would then inform the guidelines which would be instrumental in ensuring that taxpayer dollars are used wisely to grow Australian manufacturing. So today, I launch the initiative and I launch the first road map and guidelines that have been developed, and they are, of course, for the space sector. 

Now, a couple of years ago, we announced the establishment of the Australian Space Agency. Over the last couple of years, a lot of work has been done to make sure that we are engaging with other nations - the United States, but also with Europe - to put in place the agreements that are needed to build the space industry here in Australia. With the appointment of Enrico Palermo, we are taking the next step which is to absolutely grow the space industry here in Australia. 

So we have committed to reach targets of tripling the size of the sector by 2030. What we are announcing today, which is the opening of grant funding to support to two streams under the initiative. The first one is the stream that will look at commercialising good ideas. So this is not research and development. This is looking at commercialising the good ideas that we know already exist in the space sector. The second stream that is opening today will be to support businesses to become part of international supply chains. 

And one of the things that we know is important in the space sector is the relationship that we already have with NASA. We have previously announced $150 million in funding for businesses to support the NASA Artemis program. That work is already underway. And of course now, working in conjunction with the funding that's available under the manufacturing initiative, we will be absolutely launching space here in Australia. 

So I'll invite the head of the Australian Space Agency, Enrico Palermo, to say a few words.

Australian Space Agency Head, Enrico Palermo: Thank you, Minister, and good morning, everyone. It is really exciting to be here today to help launch the Space Manufacturing Roadmap, and we're doing it at one of Australia's leading space start-ups, Skykraft. There is an enormous opportunity to connect the space sector and the manufacturing sector to create jobs, create jobs of the future, and really develop national and sovereign capabilities here in Australia. 

Australia has very competitive strengths in the space sector, but importantly also the capacity, the talent and the passion to pursue the ever growing opportunities in space. A personal focus of mine, as the new head of the space- as new head of the Australian Space Agency, is that it helps implement the Space Manufacturing Roadmap and the Modern Manufacturing Strategy from the space perspective. 

Aligned with that civil space strategy, as the Minister says, we are on a mission to triple the size of the Australian space sector to $12 billion, and grow an additional 20,000 jobs by 2030. Harnessing manufacturing in the space sector in Australia is absolutely critical to that important industry growth mission. 

There's a thriving ecosystem of companies working in the space sector in Australia. I've been fortunate to visit a few of them in my first few weeks, and I'm touring Skykraft today, and many other companies. And what I'm seeing is so much talent, so much Australian ingenuity building Australian space hardware, manufacturing space hardware, and creating jobs into the future. 

The opportunity to manufacture in space in Australia are diverse. From small satellites like here at Skykraft, to launch vehicles, robotics automation, advanced communications systems, IT sensors, payloads and more. It's important we develop these capabilities that will position Australia as a global space leader. I'm proud to lead the Australian Space Agency in my new role, and we have a really important mission to develop national and sovereign capability for future generations of Australians. 

Thank you. At this point, I’ll pass to Mark Skidmore.

Skykraft CEO, Mark Skidmore: Thank you very much, Minister, and thank you, Enrico, for being here today. We really welcome the opportunity to show you around Skykraft. Skykraft is a small start-up company that is focussed on providing services from space. At this stage where we're developing up the capability to provide air traffic management services. That's our focus right now. We’ll see that continue into the future and we’re working very closely with Air Services Australia to be able to go through a proof of concept. I see these types of issues, the modern manufacturing issues and they have road map moving forward, taking us forward into building a capability up in Australia to not only [indistinct]. This is really a great opportunity. And I thank the Australian Government, the Space Agency in particular, for the support that they give. 

We benefit from that ourselves in regards to grants and the work that's been done, but we also need that help, not just a hand out, but a hand up. And I’ve seen happen that right now and we will develop and grow our capability with Skykraft – eventually we’ll be building 210 satellites. And as we manufacture, we will need the support that comes forward from the Australian Government. So, thank you very much for the opportunity.

Karen Andrews: Thank you very much. This is a road map that has been developed by industry for industry. A lot of work has been done to make sure that what we have identified within the space sector are the key priority areas that we need to work on to build our capability. So, the roadmap that we're launching today clearly sets out the direction that the space industry and space manufacturing is heading in Australia. This is not a static document. This is a dynamic document. And over the next 10 years, we will continue to work with industry to make sure that what we are developing meets industry needs. This is a road map by industry for industry. 

Happy to take questions. 

Question: I actually just had a question, this morning, obviously, that we've seen NASA landed on Mars. As obviously, the Minister for this sector, what was it like seeing that? Is it exciting for where we're going regarding the Moon to Mars mission? Are we on track with that, by the way? 

Karen Andrews: Well, how good is space? I mean, I love space, and I think it's just such a fantastic opportunity. This is something that will excite young Australians, but it's also going to excite Australians of all ages. So, I'm sure that there were many people right across Australia as well as right across the world that were fascinated to see what was happening on Mars. We are so proud to have had some Australians be part of that program. We are wanting to make sure that we are building our capability and capacity here in Australia so that we can be part of the space industry globally in the future.

So, it's a very exciting day for us. And I'm very excited that we have such a strong space sector here in Australia. 

Question: And where are we at with that Moon to Mars? What- is it all on track and on time with the pandemic and all kinds? What's the latest on that? 

Karen Andrews: Yes. So, a lot of work has been done to put in place the framework that is needed to make the various announcements for funding. And I will invite the head of the Space Agency to go specifically through the details of that. What I would like to make very clear is that this is money that will go to support Australian businesses. And the work that we have done so far with NASA has been to identify the key skills that Australia has and how that will lead into us being part of the Artemis Program. 

So, we have talked to them about the work, for example, that we do in remotely in our mining sector, particularly in Western Australia, because we are very good at remote operations. We're also talking to them about remote health. What we want to do is make sure that we work very closely with NASA on this, so that we are creating the opportunities for our businesses in Australia to be part of the Artemis Program. 

I’ll invite Enrico to add to that.

Enrico Palermo: Thank you, Minister. The Moon to Mars program is a terrific program and a signal of how the Australian space industry can really cooperate and be part of international space missions. We obviously congratulate our friends at NASA and JPL, and also Canberra Deep Space Network who are supporting the Mars mission with the successful landing this morning. 

The Moon to Mars program has three main elements. The first is what we call the supply chain program. And so right now, the agency and the department are reviewing applications for the supply chain program. We hope to be making announcements about that soon. 

We’re moving in to the Demonstrator and what we call the Trailblazer Program. And so the short-term future, we'll be having a consultation with the industry and stakeholders around Australia about what should the Trailblazer mission be. And I think the Trailblazer Mission, much like the Mars landing today, is going to be something that's going to inspire engineers, scientists and really professionals from all walks of life to help develop the space industry in Australia. 

So, the program's on track. It's a fantastic program, as the Minister said, working with NASA to sign the Artemis Accords that allows us to develop a practical implementation of the outer space treaty. And we have a really talented team moving this program forward.