from the turning-space-upside-down dept.
They're piping out our space data!
Any nation that hopes to have a space program needs to be able to keep an eye on its orbiting assets at all times. This means that Australia has become a key link in the global chain of ground-based tracking stations.
The US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has a deep space tracking facility at Tidbinbilla in the ACT, managed by the CSIRO, and the European Space Agency (ESA) has one in New Norcia, Western Australia. The New Norcia station plays a further role as it picks up and tracks the ESA launches from French Guiana as they curve across the Indian Ocean on their way to Earth orbit or beyond.
This means that Australia plays a critical role in many other countries' space programs. Right now, about 40 space missions – including deep space planetary explorers, Mars rovers, solar observatories and astronomical space observatories – are routinely downlinking their data through radio dishes on Australian soil. This uniquely acquired data is then piped out of the country to the eagerly waiting US and European scientific communities, bypassing our own.
If Australia is to capitalise on its strengths in space tracking as well as space science, and is to get on board with the burgeoning commercial space industry, it's time that we considered forming a space agency of our own.
The government will set aside $50m to fund Australia's first dedicated space agency, according to senior insiders. The ABC on Thursday reported that funding for the space agency was guaranteed in the budget on Tuesday. It is understood $50m will be given to the fledgling agency as "seed funding", with the intention that the majority of the agency's funding will come from the private sector.
Megan Clark, a former head of the [Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO)] who this year completed a comprehensive review of Australia's space sector, will lead the agency, the ABC reported.
Prof Alan Duffy, an astrophysicist at Swinburne University, said the agency would be primarily focused on research and economic development. "Rather than putting people into space, it will be focused on creating jobs for those people on earth," he said. "Space is a global sector worth some $420bn and grows faster than China's economy – it's something we want to be a part of. The aim is to develop commercial opportunities so Australian start-ups and companies gain access to this very valuable sector."
There are already space-related start-ups in Australia, but the government hopes to boost Australia's share of the growing global space market from 0.8% to 1.8%.
Also at Science Magazine.
Australia's first national space mission design facility was officially opened today by ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr at UNSW Canberra.
UNSW Canberra Space director Russell Boyce says the new Australian National Concurrent Design Facility (ANCDF) complements Australian National University's spacecraft test facilities and means Canberra now has the capability to develop space missions from start to finish.
"For the first time, Australia has a facility that will enable spacecraft design engineers and scientists to rapidly design and determine the technical and economic viability of proposed space missions," Professor Boyce said.
"Just yesterday, we announced the successful launch into orbit of our first cube satellite, 'Buccaneer', which was developed jointly with scientists from Defence Science Technology (DST). This is the first of many UNSW Canberra missions.