The Australian government is launching a review into launching its own version of NASA.
Science and industry minister senator Arthur Sinodinos announced the review into the nation’s space capabilities today.
“This is really a way to bring the whole issue to a head,” he said.
“This is really about how do we set the scene for developing a space industry in Australia. And in that context, what role changed governance arrangements could play, including possibly the role of a space agency.”
Australia and Iceland are the only two OECD countries without a space agency, with New Zealand announcing last year that it was starting one.
The global space industry is worth around $420 billion annually. The review, led by former CSIRO boss Dr Megan Clark, will report in March 2018.
The move comes just months after Space Industry Association of Australia (SIAA) released a white paper calling for a national space program,
The local industry is currently worth around $4 billion and employs more than 10,000 people, but is worth less than 1% of the global market.
The SIAA argues sector could double in size within five years with government support and is targeting a 4% global share within 20 years.
Former NASA astronaut Andy Thomas wrote to defence industries minister Christopher Pyne earlier this year arguing that the sector is essential to Australia’s security and should be headquartered in South Australia.
“I am unashamedly pro South Australia in this since it meshes and overlaps so well with local defense industries, especially undertakings such as the submarine build,” Thomas wrote to Pyne.
“We are missing out on a rich opportunity for innovation, employment and accessing potential export markets,” he wrote.
Thomas said Australia needs to lead its own space industries.
“We cannot be a serious player in this international field if our representatives are buried in some obscure government policy unit or some obscure arm of a national lab,” he wrote.
“We need a national agency that speaks for the country and with ministerial authority. Without that Australia is doomed to be forever dependent on other nations for its space-related security, its space-related economy, its space-related defense and its space-related environmental assessments.”