ANU’s search for space business

James Riley
Editorial Director

The Australian National University in Canberra is the latest institution to jump on the space sector bandwagon, launching a new Institute of Space to act as a bridge between industry and academia, to help identify opportunities for investment in new space projects.

The ANU Institute for Space (InSpace) would coordinate the multidisciplinary expertise found across the university that could be drawn on to help underpin a complex space endeavour, according to vice-chancellor Professor Brian Schmidt.

“The space industry is a rapidly growing area in business and research, and with any emerging industry, comes legal and social challenges,” he said.

“The new Institute will be the front door to space activities and capabilities across the University, including technology R&D, science missions, space test facilities, commercial space law, and business and finance initiatives relating to space.”

Prof Schmidt said InSpace would also be used to help drive co-investment with industry and government partners, and focus on cross-disciplinary projects that supported business development in the emerging space sector.

“ANU has been Australia’s leading astronomy institute for decades, and we’re now looking to combine that scientific expertise with the work we’re doing in physics, computing, quantum mechanics, and law,” he said. “The Institute will continue to attract the best and brightest in this field to Canberra.”

The ANU investment comes at a time when the head of the newly established Australian Space Agency Dr Megan Clark investigates the structure of the organisation, most notably where its headquarters is to be located.

Industry Minister Karen Andrews welcomed the new initiative to consolidate and streamline ANU’s existing array of space endeavours.

She said the $41 million budgeted for the creation of the Australian Space Agency was laying the groundwork to triple Australia’s space economy to $12 billion and create an additional 20,000 jobs by 2030.”

As Australia focuses on its research and development strengths, including in communications technologies, space situational awareness, positioning infrastructure and earth observation – InSpace would help drive co-investment between industry and government partners in projects that support the growth of a globally competitive and respected Australian space industry, Ms Andrews said.

InSpace will be led by Professor Anna Moore from ANU Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics.

Prof Moore has previously built major instruments for the Australian Astronomical Observatory, the Japanese National Large Telescope (known as Subaru), Mount Palomar’s Observatory in California, and Hawaii’s W.M. Keck Observatory (currently the world’s largest telescopes).

She has worked extensively in the field of infrared spectrographs, which are part of the next generation of tools scientists are using to map the sky and to help search for astronomical events.

Prof Moore said she would be work closely with colleagues from across the University.

“Like all challenges we’re facing now, the solution is never one-sided. That’s why we’ll be working with researchers from the ANU College of Law, research schools of mathematics, physics, earth sciences, computer sciences and our colleagues in public policy and national security research areas,” she said.

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