Support for an Australian space agency is growing, with South Australia and the ACT coming together to sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU).
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SA Premier Jay Weatherill and ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr have signed a five-year agreement on behalf of their governments, signalling an intent to work together towards the creation of a Canberra-based agency with a prominent presence in Adelaide.
"South Australia and the ACT are committed to the developing a space agency in Australia, and Adelaide will play a key part," Premier Weatherill said.
"The space sector has enormous growth potential and is a perfect fit for South Australia, given our national leadership in other high-tech industries including defence, renewable energy, IT and advanced manufacturing. Just like those industries, the space sector will provide opportunities for traditional manufacturers to transition to a high-tech, high growth sector."
Defence SA has been working closely with the ACT to develop the MoU, an agreement that has come about after SA and the ACT presented a joint paper at the COAG Industry and Skills Council meeting in Canberra earlier this month, outlining ways to expand the nation’s space industry through education, research and industry-led initiatives.
SA and the ACT said the agreement reflects both jurisdictions’ commitment to ensuring all of Australia can participate in the international space industry, which produces revenue of $420 billion annually.
"I encourage other states and territories to demonstrate their support for the establishment of a national space agency, which will see Australia secure a bigger share of this exciting industry," Premier Weatherill said.
The MoU comes as South Australia said it will push ahead with its own local industry node for a future Australian space agency, blaming the federal government for its inaction.
Australia's space industry will be on show this year when Adelaide hosts the 68th International Astronautical Congress in September, but SA's Minister for Defence Industries Martin Hamilton-Smith fears opportunities may be missed.
"Our state’s growing space ecosystem will take centre stage when delegates and space agencies from all over the world come to South Australia for the 68th International Astronautical Congress," said Minister Hamilton-Smith.
"Opportunities arising from IAC and the lucrative space sector could be missed if the Australian government fails to act quickly to support our participation in the industry."
Both the SA government and the federal government have said an Australian space agency and national strategy for the sector aligns with Australian government priorities, including defence.
Minister Pyne said the 2016 Defence White Paper acknowledged space-based and space-enabled capabilities, and the vital role they play in Australian Defence Force and coalition operations.
"The government has recently announced new investment in Australia’s space capabilities," Minister Pyne said.
On 10 July, the government announced that Australia’s deployed forces will receive a major communications boost with a $223 million contract with Northrop Grumman Australia for the acquisition, construction and support of a new satellite ground station.
Minister Pyne said the government’s support for the role that Australian industry plays in supporting ADF operations and the capability needed to protect Australia’s national interests.
"This government plans to invest around $200 billion in Defence capability over the next 10 years, of which space capabilities will be an important part. This will provide opportunities for industry growth and employment," said Minister Pyne.