Space industry ready to work ‘hand-in-hand’ with Defence


Denham Sadler
National Affairs Editor

Australia’s space industry is ready to work “hand-in-hand” with Defence to bolster the country’s capabilities as the federal government flags the growing military importance of space.

Defence Minister Peter Dutton made a speech at the Air and Space Power Conference on Tuesday morning to mark the official launch of the military’s new Space Command, housed within the Royal Australian Air Force.

Last year the RAAF announced plans to establish a new military Space Command on the back of $7 billion in Commonwealth funding over the next decade to go to Defence’s space programs.

Peter Dutton on data sharing
Defence Minister Peter Dutton

In the speech, Mr Dutton warned that space is becoming “more congested and is already contested”, and said that it must not be a “new realm for conflict”.

The Defence Minister signalled further investment in new military space capabilities and collaboration with industry.

This will create significant opportunities for the burgeoning local space sector, Space Industry Association Australia executive Philip Citowicki, who is also a non-resident fellow at US-based think tank the Pacific Forum, said.

“Space is an international endeavour and industry. Our strategic direction and investment needs to keep pace with our partners and competitors,” Mr Citowicki told InnovationAus.com.

“Australia’s space industry stands ready to work hand-in-hand with Space Command to play its part in helping Australia bolster its space capability. Our domestic industry has expertise across a range of fields that is already playing its part in shaping Australia’s space future.”

Earlier this month eight leading Australian-owned space and defence companies united to form a consortium to capitalise on the increased funding pledged to sovereign space defence capabilities.

Space was added as a new Sovereign Industrial Capability Priority in September last year, signalling the government’s intention to develop its industrial base and making the sector eligible for Defence’s SME grant program.

The Australian Space Agency has also been tasked with developing a Space Strategic Update covering the next two decades in order to align efforts across the sector. This will help to align Australia’s defence space efforts with its civilian space programs.

In the speech, Mr Dutton pointed to the growing importance of hypersonics and space-based satellite communication, and said that Russia and China are already developing hypersonic missiles.

Space will “undoubtedly become a domain which takes on greater military significance in this century”, Mr Dutton said, adding countries are already seeing it as a “territory for their taking”.

“It is a domain that must be used to deter aggression, rather than become a new realm for conflict,” Mr Dutton said.

He acknowledged that the Space Command is “initially modest” compared to other nations, but said it is a “necessary endeavour” to ensure a “safe, stable and secure space domain”.

“It’s a necessary endeavour with a view to protecting our national interests and our need for a Space Force in the future,” Mr Dutton said.

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