Australia is set to establish its first space agency.
The development comes after much lobbying from figures in the local space tech industry, including Australian NASA astronaut Andy Thomas, which in July led to a government review to assess the viability of setting up a space agency.
Australia is one of only two OECD countries without such an organisation.
“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,” Thomas said earlier this year.
Although the review by the Expert Reference Group is still ongoing, after “overwhelming” feedback the Turnbull government has now decided to commit to establishing an agency.
“The global space industry is growing rapidly and it’s crucial that Australia is part of this growth,” acting minister for industry, innovation and science Michaelia Cash said on Monday.
“The agency will be the anchor for our domestic coordination and the front door for our international engagement.”
The Expert Reference Group, chaired by former CSIRO Chief Dr Megan Clark, will now focus on writing a charter for the new agency as a part of its report to be handed down March next year.
Founder of Adelaide satellite tech firm Fleet, Flavia Tata Nardini, said in June that the world is currently “witnessing the birth of a new space era” defined by “small, scalable technologies and agile mindsets” and that Australia needed to act urgently.
“It is a sector up for grabs, but not for long. Once it clicks into gear, the world’s biggest economic drivers will depend on those who fuel it to grow,” said Nardini, who is also an aerospace engineer.
While the local space industry already employs 11,000 Australians and is worth about $4 billion a year, Nardini said it can only go so far without the leadership of a national organisation.
“The foundations a national space agency will lay, will enable our nation to continue to prosper in the next 20 to 50 years.”
The reference group has received nearly 200 written submissions and has consulted more than 400 people from private and public sectors in each state and territory.
“A national space agency will ensure we have a strategic long-term plan that supports the development and application of space technologies and grows our domestic space industry,” said Cash.
Australia’s new space organisation would leave Iceland as the only OECD nation without such an agency.