Federal space funding ascends by $65 million

Brandon How

A federal windfall of more than $65 million has been dropped on the local space industry via a new Space Infrastructure Fund, with half allocated to the Australian Space Agency and the other half toward building launch site infrastructure.

Some $32 million is to be co-invested in the development of up to three “new or existing” launch sites across Australia. There are currently two orbital launch sites that have already received launch permits, one in South Australia at Whaler’s Way, and the other at Abbot Point in Queensland.

The Australian Space Agency (ASA) will be given more than $32 million to procure and provide spaceflights and services for the local sector. In particular, it will support more pieces of space technology in receiving ‘flight qualification’. These are permits that are issued once a technology is proved to be able to survive the demands of a launch.

Of the space agency money, $3.5 million will be dedicated to a national student space challenge to take student payloads to orbit.

A $65 million Space Infrastructure Fund was announced on Friday.

Gilmour Space Technologies chief executive Adam Gilmour, whose firm is responsible for the development of the Abbot Point launch site in Queensland, welcomed the funds.

“This funding will have positive flow-on effects for our entire space industry, and to Australia as a whole – not only in terms of jobs and opportunities, but also in enabling the sovereign development of new space technologies that will benefit all Australians,” Mr Gilmour said.

While it was great to see the investment in the launch sites, Mr Gilmour said he hoped to see more public investment into locally development launch vehicles – the rocket technology that Australians are building.

“It’s fantastic to see this support for spaceports, satellite and component companies. However, it’s unclear at this point if the funding will also support the launch vehicles being manufactured here by Australian-owned companies,” Mr Gilmour told InnovationAus.

“It’s the missing piece of the puzzle for our sovereign space industry – the ability to launch Australian payloads and satellites from Australian made rockets, from an Australian launch site.”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison made the announcement from SA’s entrepreneurial precinct Lot Fourteen, which is the site of the space agency headquarters and the Australian Space Discovery Centre.

The Prime Minister praised SA Premier Steven Marshall’s leadership and credited the federal government’s Civil Space and Modern Manufacturing Strategies as crucial to space sector growth.

“Since 2018, we have invested more than $800 million as part of our [Civil Space Strategy] to triple the size of the space sector to $12 billion and create up to 20,000 new jobs by 2030,” the Prime Minister said.

“About every dollar the Commonwealth government has put in [through the Modern Manufacturing Strategy], we’ve been able to track another $2 in the investments that have already been made. We’ve got over $300 million already invested right across those six [national manufacturing priorities], that has leveraged another $670 million, and the fund itself is 1.5 billion.”

“We are a space nation when it comes to ensuring that Australians will have their equipment … and we are an astronaut nation in getting Australians back into space.”

According to details revealed during Senate Estimates last Thursday, the number of permits and licences that are currently under consideration are for six launch facilities, three Australian launches, one high-powered rocket launch vehicle, and three overseas payload permits.

It was also confirmed last Thursday that there is no intention to separate the Australia Space Agency’s industry engagement and regulatory functions. This decision goes against a recommendation made in a House of Representatives’ committee report released last December.

South Australia Premier Steven Marshall described the investment as welcome support for the state’s already thriving space sector.

“South Australia is unequivocally the Space State – we have already created nearly 1600 space jobs in the State and today’s announcement is going to see that number take off,” Premier Marshall said.

“We are the home of the Space Discovery Centre, Mission Control, the Australian Space Agency, the Australian Space Park and more than 90 space-related companies are already based right here in SA.”

The funds announced today were made available through the mid-year economic and fiscal outlook 2021-22.

Southern Launch’s chief executive officer Lloyd Damp, the firm that owns the Whalers Way launch site in SA, was thrilled by the extra funding.

“Today’s announcement of Federal support for the development of space launch facilities, and under the strategic guidance of Mr Enrico Palermo from the Australian Space Agency, accelerates our nation’s ability to become a global leader in space launch activities. I look forward to the not-too-distant future when all Australians can take pride in our national space future,” Mr Damp said.

Space Industry Association chief executive officer celebrated the ambition of the federal government to return Australians to space.

“Today’s announcements will support the Australian space industry and the booming space economy, it once more draws attention to the fac that Australia is open for space launch services. Importantly, the Prime Minister is opening a door for the thousands of Australians who have the skills and ambition to make it as an astronaut and want to help human exploration and industry in space,” Mr Brown said.

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1 Comment
  1. Richard Lloyd 2 years ago

    Southern Launch do not own Whalers Way and currently have no permission to launch anything there. Their record is appalling. They have no credibility. Whalers Way is a wildlife sanctuary and so it is very unlikely any major rocket activity can proceed there. As it stands, they must remove their failed test launch pad by March 31st. Environmental concerns abound surrounding this proposal. Many of the rare, threatened and endangered species which exist there appear on the Federal Government’s own list of top 100 endangered species. Southern Launch has consistently been economic with the truth towards the public about the size and nature of their proposal. Their Environmental Impact Statement mentions little about vegetation or even says anything about lizards.It is too windy for launching rockets. This is an area of pristine coastal Heath and Sheoak/mallee scrub and is essentially intact, untouched and weed free. This vegetation type is poorly protected in South Australia. If we are to have a Space Industry in South Australia let’s do it at a more appropriate location and get rid of these cowboys at Southern Launch before they start another bushfire.

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