The last three days from 13th to 15th June, a special conference was being held. The significance of this conference was when it was organised, Australia was without a space agency, and by 13th June, Australia had a space agency. Timing has been exceptional.
The key question is, now what?
The event hosted a wide gamut of individuals; Defence, researchers, state and government representatives, start-ups and students and even representatives from other space agencies, namely JAXA.
We heard from defence what their view of the world is and how space is part of their daily operations. Defence pointed out that they must be able to operate in a space denied environment and still prevail. Space technology is fundamentally a tool. But they have shown interest to work with others. For example, Defence have collaborative work with universities to test new capabilities on CubeSat platforms.
We heard from universities and research organisations of their work to develop new technologies that would be game changing and world leading. The “deep tech” as they like to say.
We heard from the state representatives and government officials of the active work occurring within each of their states. Their messages were loud and clear, we want to be part of this new sector that is space and we can take the lead…if you want.
We heard from startups like Fleet and Gilmour Space talking about what they do. They offered a unique perspective to the room of what it is like to be on the ground and being nimble to survive. A startup is always on a path of discovery, of trial and error and of uncertainty.
There was an undertone in the presentations that we should expect failure. Reminded that only few research projects and few startups will survive. Space is the riskiest sector to work. It is also the toughest. A reframing of old mindsets was occurring.
So what now?
The agency commences on 1st July. Then, the director of the agency, Dr Megan Clark, begins her work to collate all of Australia’s actives between states. On top of that, she will be in contact with the world’s space agencies to build bridges for Australia. Soon, a state will be selected to host the actual agency, the building where administration of the nation’s space activity will lead towards.
The states will likely continue their work to drive the space sector and drive their own niche capabilities and unique geographical offerings.
The startup world will continue their work as they were. Business as usual. Find customers, find investment and sell to the world market.
Of discussion during the event was developing Australian sovereign capability. Do we need so much capability? Or perhaps we should continue to push and maintain our leads in our comfortable zones of astronomy, GPS and communications.
The startup sector is here to fill in all those gaps. It began years ago. Australia will have sovereign capabilities for launch, for Earth Observation, for communications, for internet of things, for deep space mining, for deep space exploration, whether the space agency or government mandate it or not.
So, what is the strategy overall? Where will Australia go in terms of space?
That is yet to be decided post event. There seems to be a posture to wait and see. The next innovation is not planned, is not expected. But when it does appear, it will disrupt. That disruption is what worries large organisations and defence.
Space Ops is clear on its mission. To develop launch vehicles and enable access to space for all.
How we achieve this will come from collaborating with others, developing a space knowledgeable working group and design the future launch and in-space missions to inspire investors and the public.