On September 24, during the early stages of International Astronautical Congress (IAC2017) in Adelaide, the Australian announced it would be forming an Australian Space Agency (ASA).
Acting minister for Industry, Senator Michaela Cash, was quoted as saying "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.”
"The agency will be the anchor for our domestic coordination and the front door for our international engagement", she said.
Currently the world space industry is valued at $420 billion AUD. The correct nurturing of the industry, would facilitate thousands of jobs across both business and government sectors.
Earlier in the year, the Turnbull government (Senator Arthur Sinodinos) had established a working group chaired y Dr Megan Clark (formerly of CSIRO, Monash University, Rio Tinto) to investigate this issue.
The group had already collected submissions from various space advocacy groups, and it was originally thought could be recommending options to the government in early 2018 for action to allow funds to be allocated from treasury it .
Australia was the third nation to launch a rocket into space with a satellite in 1967 While Australian have been involved as a supporter of space activities at a project level, there was never an agency to co-ordinate general activities.
For Australia’s space researchers and business people to be properly supported (via a combination of legislation, diplomacy and funding) the government needs to be directly involved to assist.
Most of our major Asia-Pacific trade partners - India, Japan, China, South Korea, Indonesia, Malaysia and New Zealand already have space agencies.
At this stage, most believe the agency model that could be followed will be more like that of the United Kingdom (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/UKSpaceAgency) rather than United States of America (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NASA) .
However, we are going to have to wait for more detail in early 2018, when the working party completes its review.
There is some cause for optimism – given the fact that both major political parties appear to recognise the need for an agency now.
2018 should be an interesting year indeed.