Space agency clears the tower
Megan Clarke: Aussie ingenuity heads for the final frontier
Australia’s first ever national space agency has officially launched in a major milestone for the burgeoning local sector.
The Australian Space Agency lifted off on Sunday, with former CSIRO boss Dr Megan Clark at the helm.
The agency is currently on the hunt for a number of senior executives, and will soon receive bids from nearly every state and territory which are vying for the right to host its permanent headquarters.
Dr Clark said the agency will be suited to the new age of space businesses and will be focused on the private sector.
“Some may argue that Australia may be late to the party, but we are entering a time where the space sector is moving from the realm of government to the commercial world. Our agency will be one of the most industry-focused space agencies in the world, engaged internationally and demonstrating Australia can be a leader and a responsible global citizen, drawing on our home grown Aussie ingenuity,” Dr Clark said.
“In a sector undergoing transformation and rapid growth, we will embrace the Australian entrepreneurial spirit, value our differences and draw strength from diversity. We look forward to building a space agency of which all Australians can be proud.”
The agency’s initial tasks will be to establish its charter and overarching strategy, along with an investment plan, and to decide where its headquarters should be permanently based by the end of the year.
With the official bidding process now open, a number of states and territories have already thrown their hat into the ring, with a competitive process well underway.
Dr Clark will soon meet with all the applicants to determine where the headquarters should be housed.
The space agency has been given a lofty aim by the federal government: to triple the size of the local space sector by 2030, creating up to 20,000 jobs in the process.
“Growing how we use space will change how we live and work, including providing new opportunities for communication in regional and remote areas. Space will be a defining domain for human endeavour and will change what we do on Earth,” Dr Clark said.
“Your agency’s purpose is to transform and grow a globally respected Australian space industry that lifts the broader economy and inspires and improves the lives of Australians. This will be underpinned by strong international and national engagement.”
The federal government confirmed its intentions to launch the agency in October last year. This year’s budget allocated just $26 million over four years to the launch of the new body, despite many in the sector calling for at least double this.
A further $15 million will be provided across three years for partnerships with international agencies and strategic investments.
The space agency has four key responsibilities: to support the development of Australia’s space industry, coordinate domestic activities, engage with stakeholders to identify opportunities to create a globally competitive space industry and to facilitate international space engagement.
It will also oversee the legislative arrangements for Australia’s civil space activities.
Much of the agency’s funding is expected to go towards its staff, and it is now actively looking to recruit. In a job ad, the space agency announced its plan to hire a range of executive directors to operate below the agency’s head and deputy.
These directors will cover one or several of the space agency’s key roles: space strategy and policy, policy coordination and communications, international and national growth, program and industry capability, space regulations and international obligations.
Applications for the executive level 2 positions will close at the end of the week.
It comes as the Victorian Industry and Employment Minister Ben Carroll recently met with the federal Innovation Minister Michaelia Cash in Canberra last week. Mr Carroll spruiked Victoria’s advanced manufacturing and aerospace credentials in an effort to land the space agency’s headquarters.
New South Wales, Western Australia and South Australia have also announced strong bids for the agency, with the decision to be decided by the end of the year.
Senator Cash said there is now an “extraordinary” opportunity to rapidly grow the local space sector.
“I know Dr Clark is building a strong team around her, and is looking forward to engaging with industry, academia and each of the states and territories to grow this national endeavour,” Senator Cash said.