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Canberra puts another AU$65m towards growing Australia’s space sector

The Australian government has announced it will inject an additional AU$65 million to “fast track” the local space sector.

The government detailed that the money will be distributed across two lots. The first portion of funds, AU$32 million, will be co-invested into the development of three new or existing spaceport sites around Australia, and the second portion of AU$33 million will be handed to the Australian Space Agency for the procurement and provision of spaceflights and services for the Australian space sector.

Within the share that will be provided to the Australian Space Agency, AU$3.5 million has been allocated for the national student space challenge that will see student payloads sent into orbit.

“It’s also about putting Australia into space, and working with NASA and other international partners to get an Australian back into space,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Friday.

“We’re a launch nation with what we’re doing here to invest in these launch facilities. We are a space nation when it comes to ensuring that Australians will have their equipment, which is being developed right here in South Australia, up in space. And we are an astronaut nation by getting Australians back into space as part of these initiatives.”.

Morrison boasted that the additional funding builds on the AU$800 million-plus the federal government has invested into building Australia’s space capabilities since 2018 as part of its “mission to triple the size of the sector and create up to 20,000 new jobs by 2030”. This goal was set out under the Australian Civil Space Strategy.

In November, the Australian government announced another AU$41 million in grant funding for organisations focusing on mission development activities for current and existing space projects under Australia’s Moon to Mars initiative. 

On Friday, South Australia Premier Steven Marshall also confirmed that Adelaide Airport would become the home of the Australian Space Park. The site was proposed as an ideal location due to its proximity to traditional aerospace companies, the central business district, and the state’s innovation precinct, Lot Fourteen. 

“The Australia Space Manufacturing Park is well underway. Negotiations have concluded with the Adelaide Airport,” he said.

Earlier this week, Australia National University (ANU) vice-chancellor and Nobel-prize winner Brain Schmidt said that greater collaboration between local universities will be necessary to help Australia build its sovereign space capabilities but insists a few things will need to change before it can happen.

“Australian universities have a critical role in designing a prosperous Australian future — something we always need to remember — and part of that is ensuring a diverse and well-skilled Australian space workforce, noting that we’re expected to deliver roughly 20,000 jobs by 2030 … and if we work in a zero-sum mentality, we will fail,” warned Schmidt, speaking at the Airbus Team Maier event on Monday evening.

“So, each of us need to work as part of the ‘Team Australia’ ecosystem. [A] fragmented approach, which I’m afraid that is sort of the natural state of universities, is both inefficient and doesn’t scale up.

“We must educate, train, and inspire the next-generation nationally through interstate and national collaboration. We also have to create an ecosystem which is porous across government, academia, and business where people can have diverse careers combine it with diversity of ideas that they have from those careers, to create the native advances.”

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