Today is an exciting day as we recognise and celebrate the Australian Space Agency’s third birthday. This is an important opportunity to reflect upon how far we have come in just a few years, to recognise the incredible contributions of our amazing, passionate team, and to celebrate the achievements of the last year.
I commenced at the Agency five months ago, at the end of January. On day one I committed to engaging with the sector – across industry, research and government, a phase of listening, engaging and learning. I have been doing that across the nation and it has been an incredibly valuable and enlightening exercise. The opportunity for Australia to expand its development and utilisation of space technologies is immense and exciting. Momentum is building, driven by passionate, talented and gritty teams around the nation who have a shared determination to make a difference and to accelerate Australia’s presence and competiveness in what is a truly global sector. Our growing momentum is signalled by many markers, including increasing private investment, the emergence of new innovative technologies, constellations of sophisticated Australian satellites being launched, university research programs creating our future space workforce, maturing domestic capability to build and launch rockets, and hiring by space companies of all sizes.
The establishment of the Agency in 2018 catalysed effort and energy around the nation towards the opportunity space provides, while accelerating recognition that space is something that touches virtually every aspect of our lives today. Integral to our success and achievements at the Agency to date is our people, who we affectionately call ‘Space Agents’. Our Agents are motivated everyday by our audacious purpose to grow a globally respected and responsible thriving space sector in Australia that lifts the broader economy, and inspires and improves the lives of all Australians. I am incredibly proud and fortunate to serve our team of talented and dedicated Agents who consistently go above and beyond to deliver on our purpose, while upholding the Agency’s values and Charter.
We are responsible in space and on Earth. We have a shared ambition, working together to achieve our ambitious goals in partnership with industry, government and our international counterparts. We act with trust and integrity, building confidence within those we work with, and doing what we say we’ll do. We display an entrepreneurial spirit, coming up with new ideas and interesting ways of doing things to grow our industry. We are inclusive, valuing the experiences and wellbeing of everyone we work with. And finally, we display passion for our work and our purpose, constantly being curious, and pushing the boundaries of our knowledge.
Over the past year, we have provided over $17 million in grants, an important step in stimulating the space sector and growing our economy. We are filling gaps in critical space infrastructure through the $19.5 million Space Infrastructure Fund, developing important international cooperation through the $15 million International Space Investment initiative, and accelerating the growth of the industry through the Australian Government’s flagship space program, the $150 million Moon to Mars initiative.
We have also made important progress towards our 10 year Civil Space Strategy by granting Australia’s first launch facility licence, releasing the first of our Civil Space Priority Area roadmaps on Communications Technologies and Services, delivering our first Economic Baseline report and contributing to the Australian Government’s Modern Manufacturing Strategy in which space is identified as a priority sector.
In October 2020, the Agency was a founding nation to sign the Artemis Accords, along with the United States of America, Canada, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, the United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom. The signing helps Australia advance space as a partner with NASA and international counterparts on the Artemis mission as we go forward to the Moon and beyond to Mars.
We further demonstrated our commitment to being Australia’s front door for international cooperation in space through the development of the Australia-UK Space Bridge and our support of JAXA’s Hayabusa2 mission.
The Space Bridge Framework Arrangement enhances cooperation between Australia and the UK’s space agencies, plus our trade and investment agencies to accelerate the growth of our space sectors.
The Hayabusa2 spacecraft collected samples from the asteroid Ryugu, which included the first-ever subsurface asteroid sample that landed successfully in the Woomera Prohibited Area in South Australia in December 2020. The samples will help scientists gain insights into our solar system through the rock, organic matter and water from Ryugu's surface. The Agency’s team provided critical coordination activities to ensure the safe return of the sample, continuing to build our relationships with Japan and the United States.
We have also made a strong impact with our ‘Inspire’ pillar through the official public opening of the Australian Space Discovery Centre in May, which is co-located with our headquarters in Lot Fourteen in Adelaide. Prime Minister Scott Morrison officially opened the centre, which aims to inspire the Australian community and the next generation of the space workforce through stories of opportunity, curiosity and technology. Since opening, over 12,000 people have booked tickets to visit the centre, a powerful step in our mission to inspire the Australian community.
The Australian Space Agency achieved many important things in the last year. The space sector has shown itself to be resilient and an important part of the nation’s economic recovery from COVID-19. Looking ahead we must harness the momentum building in the sector. We have an opportunity to enhance national, sovereign space capability through increasing collaboration to optimise and deliver investment with precision. We can do this through space missions that address some of Australia’s greatest challenges, and through reducing barriers to enable companies to scale their activities accessing both domestic and international markets. Working with organisations across the Australian Government, we will unlock opportunities to the full space value chain.
Today’s announcements on the deferral of the introduction of partial cost recovery for applications under the Space (Launches and Returns) Act 2018 and commencement of negotiations between Australia and the United States on a bilateral Technology Safeguards Agreement (TSA) are just two signals of our intent to accelerate progress and create a thriving sector.
It is terrific to be back in Australia and to have the immense privilege to lead the Australian Space Agency. I cannot wait to see what the Agency and the Australian space sector can achieve in the year ahead.
Head, Australian Space Agency