South Australia has billed itself as the Defence State, but with the renaissance of Australia’s space sector, could it also bill itself as the Space State?
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After all, SA hosts the Woomera range where Australia’s space industry was born with a series of launches during the 1950s and 1960s.
Richard Price, the chief executive of Defence SA, doesn’t really think so.
He said Australia’s space industry capabilities were likely to be located all over the country.
“I don't think you'll see somebody brand it as the space state in the same way, if at least because it's not got a big iconic program like AWD (air warfare destroyer) that you can put a banner on,” he said in an interview with Defence Connect.
Price said everyone became excited about launching satellites and the upstream side of the space business.
“The benefit to Australia is all downstream, in how you use and apply that data and technology,” he said.
Price said many people didn’t understand just how much impact space has on their daily lives.
“They realise that GPS comes from space and that's probably about as far as it goes. What they don't realise is that if GPS was denied how their world would fall apart,” he said.
“The upstream side of the space economy is probably only a third and is always going to be relatively small and was driven in Australia by a lot of passionate people.
“It was the grass roots that really pushed it and got the momentum up. So, you don't want to destroy the energy and enthusiasm that we've got in that ecosystem of space.”
Price said the important issue, which the federal government recognised, was the need to grow the industry.
“It's not about emulating NASA or the European Space Agency. It's about helping industry grow within Australia so that we have more of the upstream work and more done in the country, as well as a lot of the downstream work that we do already,” he said.
Price said Australia needed more mid-sized companies to fill the mid-sized void.
“In space there is a tremendous amount of entrepreneurial businesses and individuals who've got what it takes. They need to have the opportunity to get beyond the start-up phase,” he said.
“Where I think the real opportunity is, is in the broader economy, is in the people who benefit from space understanding how that technology can be applied.
“And then, rather than going to Europe or to the US to acquire it, looking internally within Australia. Because we're still suffering from this kind of doubt, of our capability to do some of these things.”
Price said Defence SA was running an incubator accelerator program for recent graduates or those working in industry to learn about the space business.
“We're trying. We will never create the broad base. What we're trying to do is stimulate it and get it moving,” he said.