Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

A Military Motive for the Space Agency

By Guy Nolch

National security, not economic opportunity, may have motivated the government’s new interest in a sovereign space capability.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

In November 1967 Australia became the third nation, behind the USA and Russia, to build and launch a satellite on its own soil. Fifty years after the launch of the Weapons Research Establishment Satellite (WRESAT), the Australian government announced that it would provide $41 million over 4 years to establish the Australian Space Agency. At the time, Australia and Iceland were the only two OECD nations without a space agency.

In the intervening years there had been proposals for a Cape York Spaceport, but the economics didn’t stack up. Nor was there the political will to support a domestic space industry. Nevertheless, a 2016 review by Asia Pacific Aerospace Consultants estimated that Australia’s space industry was worth around $4 billion and employs more than 10,000 people whose niche expertise contributes to international space projects. The government hopes the Australian Space Agency will help this industry triple by 2030.

The space industry is evolving away from “Big Space” projects such as rocket launches and space exploration to a new paradigm referred to as Space 2.0, which emphasises the “small, many and cheap” rather than the “large, expensive and few” (AS, May/June 2018, p.39). Led by the private sector, this approach to space is less onerous for a government to support, but Malcolm Davis (pp.18–21) argues there’s an emerging impetus for government...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.