A New Hori­zon

Aus­tralia in the global space race


In­spired by the great prospects open­ing up be­fore mankind as a re­sult of man’s en­try into outer space, … Pre­am­ble to the Dec­la­ra­tion of Le­gal Prin­ci­ples Gov­ern­ing the Ac­tiv­i­ties of States in the Ex­plo­ration and Use of Outer Space, 13 De­cem­ber 1963

From 1 July 2018 Aus­tralia will have its own na­tional space agency, the ASA, with seed fund­ing of $41 mil­lion in the first four years and fur­ther po­ten­tial in­vest­ment through a Space In­dus­try De­vel­op­ment Fund and ma­jor, na­tional space-re­lated projects on a qua­dren­nial ba­sis.1

Aus­tralia has been deeply in­volved in space re­search from the dawn of the space age, even be­fore Sput­nik 1 was launched, es­pe­cially at the Weapons Re­search Es­tab­lish­ment at Woomera.2

Aus­tralia has also pre­vi­ously had a space agency, the Aus­tralian Space Of­fice (ASO), and a Na­tional Space Pro­gram (NSP), from 1987 to 1996.3

Cur­rent cir­cum­stances are fun­da­men­tally dif­fer­ent to those 22 years ago when the ASO and NSP were ter­mi­nated. There are strong rea­sons for op­ti­mism4 about the suc­cess of a new ASA and na­tional strat­egy for civil space,5 not least of which is that the cur­rent resur­gence of the Aus­tralian space in­dus­try is largely com­mer­cially-driven and by home-grown in­no­va­tion and en­ter­prise.

The Clark Re­port set a tar­get of at least tripling the con­tri­bu­tion of the Aus­tralian space in­dus­try to the

The cur­rent resur­gence of the Aus­tralian space in­dus­try is largely com­mer­cially-driven and by home-grown in­no­va­tion.

econ­omy by 2030, to $12 bil­lion, a com­pound an­nual growth rate of 8% over the pe­riod,6 which may seem am­bi­tious, but which is modest com­pared to a com­pound an­nual growth rate for the global space econ­omy of over 9.5% over a pe­riod of more than 15 years,7 and which would not nec­es­sar­ily bring Aus­tralia up to a pro­por­tion­ate share of the global space econ­omy.8

As a pub­licly funded, gov­erned and staffed or­gan­i­sa­tion, though, the agency will need to rep­re­sent the in­ter­ests and prospects of the Aus­tralian pop­u­la­tion broadly and not just the com­mer­cial in­ter­ests of Aus­tralian space en­ter­prises, in spite of their great prospects.

This ar­ti­cle ex­am­ines the rea­sons why now is the right time to re-es­tab­lish a na­tional space pro­gram, pre­views some of the pol­icy and le­gal chal­lenges that an ASA must con­front in bal­anc­ing its pri­or­i­ties, and sug­gests some crit­i­cal com­mer­cial and strate­gic op­por­tu­ni­ties for Aus­tralia, pro­vided that Aus­tralia, through the ASA, is pre­pared to take on a proac­tive, global role in space law and pol­icy to ad­dress the chal­lenges.

1 Hav­ing a ‘horse' in the space race

The global space in­dus­try is es­ti­mated at around USD329 bil­lion an­nu­ally9 and is ex­pected to grow to be­tween USD1.1 tril­lion in 20 years10 and USD2.7 tril­lion in 30 years. The Aus­tralian space in­dus­try is es­ti­mated to gen­er­ate around AUD4 bil­lion per an­num12 and con­se­quently rep­re­sents only a small por­tion of the in­ter­na­tional mar­ket.

The growth in the space in­dus­try re­flects the de­vel­op­ment in tech­nol­ogy in re­cent years. Small satel­lites are now man­u­fac­tured be­spoke, or as­sem­bled from com­modi­tised or mod­u­larised com­po­nents.13 They of­fer in­creas­ingly cus­tomised and flex­i­ble ca­pa­bil­ity, ei­ther in­de­pen­dently, or as nodes within a con­stel­la­tion of satel­lites. 14

Satel­lites are smaller, more re­dun­dant, less risky in­vest­ments, open­ing the way for par­tic­i­pa­tion in space ac­tiv­i­ties by a broader range of States and non­govern­men­tal en­ti­ties.

While there has been an em­pha­sis on com­mer­cial­i­sa­tion of space prod­ucts and ser­vices for decades in the United States,15 in­sa­tiable con­sumer-led de­mand for lo­cal and global con­nec­tiv­ity has also been a driver in this change,16 par­tic­u­larly as peo­ple of de­vel­op­ing na­tions more fully par­tic­i­pate in all as­pects of eco­nomic, so­cial, po­lit­i­cal and cul­tural life.17 Those driv­ers are un­likely to dis­si­pate in the near fu­ture, but will be ac­cen­tu­ated by the prospects of off-earth min­ing and ex­tra-ter­ri­to­rial coloni­sa­tion in the long term, and sci­en­tific re­search, par­tic­u­larly to sup­port those prospects, in the medium term.

All of this is stim­u­lat­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties to tai­lor in­no­va­tive niche so­lu­tions to emerg­ing mar­ket sub-seg­ments that can be ser­viced by small, in­creas­ingly ca­pa­ble, satel­lites. Ex­am­ples in­clude small satel­lites en­abling in­ter­net­con­nected de­vices,18 re­mote sens­ing

by satel­lites op­er­at­ing co­op­er­a­tively in for­ma­tion, sci­en­tific re­search (which is, af­ter all, the ge­n­e­sis of small satel­lites), as well as mil­i­tary ap­pli­ca­tions.19

Apart from the satel­lites them­selves, frag­men­ta­tion is oc­cur­ring in re­spect of the launch, ground, link and user seg­ments of the space in­dus­try to pro­vide, for ex­am­ple, small rock­ets20 and mo­bile satel­lite ground con­trol sta­tions21 re­spond­ing to con­sumer-led de­mand with more agility. This rep­re­sents ad­di­tional, sig­nif­i­cant com­mer­cial op­por­tu­ni­ties.

Those op­por­tu­ni­ties are not lim­ited to the space in­dus­try it­self. The ex­pe­ri­ence in the UK, for ex­am­ple, has been that in ad­di­tion to the growth in di­rect jobs that comes with in­dus­try growth, there are ap­prox­i­mately two spin-off jobs for ev­ery space job.22 For Aus­tralia, the Clark

Re­port con­ser­va­tively es­ti­mates growth of up to 20,000 high-value jobs as the in­dus­try triples.23

1.1 Aus­tralia can con­trib­ute a lot

Aus­tralia can and should con­trib­ute a larger share to the global space econ­omy and de­velop sovereign, strate­gic space ca­pa­bil­ity. We have rel­e­vant in­fra­struc­ture, ex­per­tise, ed­u­ca­tion, re­search, rep­u­ta­tion and cred­i­bil­ity across a grow­ing range of seg­ments and sub-seg­ments in the in­dus­try. We have among the most in­no­va­tive com­pa­nies and peo­ple, turn­ing their ef­forts to cre­at­ing val­ued niches of our own.24

We can al­ready man­u­fac­ture our own satel­lites from scratch,25 pre­pare them for launch,26 and op­er­ate them in or­bit.27 We are al­ready a global leader in de­vel­op­ing user ap­pli­ca­tions of space in­fra­struc­ture. Although we can­not do it now, we will soon be able to launch on Aus­tralian rock­ets,28 from Aus­tralian launch fa­cil­i­ties. 29

We are also global lead­ers in op­er­at­ing in re­mote and in­hos­pitable en­vi­ron­ments (ana­logues to the Moon and other ce­les­tial bod­ies) and in the use of satel­lite tech­nol­ogy to en­able such op­er­a­tions. Typ­i­cally, this is where min­ing com­pa­nies op­er­ate. The very big and ca­pa­ble Aus­tralian min­ing in­dus­try has been ex­plor­ing the the­o­ret­i­cal as­pects of off-earth min­ing for sev­eral years now.30

1.2 Strate­gic ad­van­tages

So what's been hold­ing Aus­tralia back? Aus­tralia was among the orig­i­nal space pi­o­neers, with a vi­brant space in­dus­try fo­cused on Woomera in the 1960s and 70s.31 Since then, our in­ter­na­tional part­ners left Woomera, but pro­vided us with on­go­ing ac­cess to the ben­e­fits of their space re­search and en­ter­prise (es­pe­cially the US) in re­turn for ac­cess to our fa­cil­i­ties and ge­og­ra­phy (es­pe­cially re­mote ar­eas) and there have been a se­ries of false starts in the es­tab­lish­ment of space­ports in Aus­tralia be­tween 1986 and 1998, re­flect­ing the very high start-up costs of the space in­dus­try at the time. 32

This has com­pounded a per­cep­tion that what­ever space ca­pa­bil­ity Aus­tralia needed, it should get from al­lies,33 and any Aus­tralian as­pi­ra­tions for its own space pro­gram were more likely to be met with a cringe and a wry choke, than with en­thu­si­asm.

But Aus­tralia has a ‘sovereign mar­gin' of space-re­lated needs that can­not or will not be met by al­lies in all cir­cum­stances,34 en­try costs are fall­ing, and Aus­tralia has very cred­i­ble and com­pe­tent space-re­lated ca­pa­bil­i­ties. The Aus­tralian De­fence Force, like other mod­ern mil­i­tary forces, have be­gun to ac­knowl­edge their heavy de­pen­dence on space in­fra­struc­ture, and also that the use of space is likely to be con­tested be­tween bel­liger­ents in, and even be­fore, a con­flict (ter­res­trial and oth­er­wise).35

Thus, not only is it the right time to fos­ter a deeper and broader do­mes­tic space in­dus­try for com­mer­cial rea­sons, but there is also an ur­gent strate­gic im­per­a­tive to do so.

The Aus­tralian De­fence Force, like other mod­ern mil­i­tary forces, have be­gun to ac­knowl­edge their heavy de­pen­dence on space in­fra­struc­ture, and also that the use of space is likely to be con­tested be­tween bel­liger­ents in, and even be­fore, a con­flict.

1.3 A lo­cal space in­dus­try needs sup­port

Not­with­stand­ing the very vi­brant in­dus­try that Aus­tralia has had in user ap­pli­ca­tions of space in­fra­struc­ture be­long­ing to al­lies and oth­ers, the very ti­tle of the ex­tant (but out­dated) na­tional space pol­icy – the ‘Satel­lite Util­i­sa­tion Pol­icy' re­leased in 201336 – re­flected self-con­scious­ness about Aus­tralian as­pi­ra­tions to de­velop any space in­fra­struc­ture of its own.

Since 2013, it has pri­mar­ily been the more than 60 home-grown start-ups,

rather than es­tab­lished com­pa­nies, that have stepped up to de­velop launch sites, launch ve­hi­cles, satel­lite ground con­trol sta­tions, satel­lite man­u­fac­tur­ing and space track­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties. 37

Even though these are vi­brant, in­no­va­tive and among the most ad­mired com­pa­nies in the global space in­dus­try,38 they are still rela

tively fledg­ling en­ter­prises work­ing in dis­parate, niche ar­eas. Within their niches, they can be glob­ally com­pet­i­tive, but to fos­ter the in­dus­try as a whole, to show­case what we can do col­lec­tively, to iden­tify – and even cre­ate – com­pre­hen­sive op­por­tu­ni­ties, Aus­tralia needs an en­tity cen­trally or­gan­ised, col­lec­tively funded, and man­dated to do what the in­di­vid­ual en­ter­prises can­not do in­de­pen­dently.

In the past, leading space re­searchers and as­so­ci­a­tions have been strong ad­vo­cates for the Aus­tralian space in­dus­try, but have lacked the of­fi­cial man­date to co­or­di­nate and speak for the whole of the in­dus­try and could not de­vote the re­sources that the bur­geon­ing in­dus­try war­rants.39 We need, as the Clark Re­port puts it – ‘One Voice, One Door'40 – and on 1 July 2018, the Aus­tralian Space Agency will take on that role.

2 Bal­anc­ing lo­cal and global pol­icy objectives

The world that the ASA is com­ing into is very dif­fer­ent to the early days of space ex­plo­ration. There are many press­ing do­mes­tic and in­ter­na­tional pol­icy chal­lenges that the ASA will im­me­di­ately face – re­flect­ing that outer space is an in­creas­ingly con­gested, con­tested and com­pet­i­tive com­mons.

2.1 Con­gested

Outer space is not as vast as it might first ap­pear, with more than 1,700 ac­tive satel­lites in Earth's or­bit.41 As the num­ber of ‘us­able' or­bits is lim­ited, es­pe­cially the most valu­able or­bits (geo­sta­tion­ary and sun syn­chro­nous or­bits), these ac­tive satel­lites must be ma­noeu­vred to avoid each other, as well as avoid­ing the de­bris al­ready in space from the over 8,100 ob­jects pre­vi­ously launched.42

The United States Air Force, which runs the world's largest net­work of space sur­veil­lance sen­sors,43 tracks over 20,000 ob­jects the size of a soft­ball and there are about 500,000 ob­jects the size of a mar­ble (and many more, even smaller) that can still do dam­age.44

Even if it be­comes fea­si­ble to clean up the de­bris al­ready in space,45 the sheer num­ber of satel­lites shar­ing or­bits or cross­ing paths, par­tic­u­larly as the num­ber of non-pow­ered nano and mi­cro satel­lites grows, means that at some point a com­pre­hen­sive Space Traf­fic Man­age­ment (STM) regime for outer space must be im­ple­mented, not just to avoid col­li­sions with de­bris, but to proac­tively man­age launches, or­bital in­ser­tions, or­bital ma­noeu­vres and de-or­bits46 – with­out which de­bris-cre­at­ing events could cas­cade to be­come a mas­sive de­bris cloud that make Earth or­bits un­us­able for mil­len­nia. 47

A com­pre­hen­sive Space Traf­fic Man­age­ment regime must be im­ple­mented… with­out which de­bris-cre­at­ing events could cas­cade to be­come a mas­sive de­bris cloud that make Earth or­bits un­us­able for mil­len­nia.

“[No] State should be ac­cused of be­ing a space ‘flag of con­ve­nience’ just yet, but there is an ap­par­ent com­mer­cial im­pe­tus to ig­nore longer-term prob­lems, in favour of short-term prof­its.

There are also sim­i­lar prob­lems in re­spect of the elec­tro­mag­netic do­main as it re­lates to outer space. While tech­no­log­i­cal developments that al­low more satel­lites to use the same parts of the ra­dio spec­trum may de­lay the problem, ra­dio spec­trum is ul­ti­mately fi­nite and the cur­rent pri­ori­ti­sa­tion on a first-come, first-served ba­sis may not be suf­fi­cient to man­age the global in­ter­est in shar­ing this re­source. 48

2.2 Con­tested

The ben­e­fits of space, com­bined with a grow­ing de­pen­dency on space, means that there is a strate­gic im­pe­tus to de­velop ca­pa­bil­ity to deny oth­ers the use of space, while pro­tect­ing your own use of space. While space was pre­vi­ously thought of as re­mote and in­su­lated from ter­res­trial dis­putes, space is now an in­te­gral part of strate­gic planning for mil­i­taries around the world,49 in­clud­ing for our own Aus­tralian De­fence Force.50

For this rea­son, counter-space ca­pa­bil­i­ties have been devel­oped and tested – and may be de­ployed in the fu­ture.51 This raises ques­tions about

what may be law­fully tar­geted in space, in­clud­ing civil­ian satel­lites that are only in­ci­den­tally used for mil­i­tary pur­poses (dual use) and the le­gal and nor­ma­tive frame­work ap­pli­ca­ble to mil­i­tary space ac­tiv­i­ties, in­clud­ing in pe­ri­ods of ten­sion and hos­til­i­ties. 52

2.3 Com­pet­i­tive

As the cost of space ac­tiv­i­ties falls, space be­comes ac­ces­si­ble to a wider range of States and com­pa­nies, and even in­di­vid­u­als.53 This sup­ports the United Na­tions' Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment Goals 203054 in­clud­ing pro­mot­ing growth and pros­per­ity for all peo­ple.55 Con­sid­er­ing the po­ten­tial ben­e­fits of space in­cludes the abil­ity to con­nect all peo­ple for ed­u­ca­tion, de­vel­op­ment, com­merce, there is a strong in­cen­tive for in­dus­try to pro­duce the means to achieve those goals.

It is also very much con­sis­tent with the as­pi­ra­tions of the Outer Space Treaty (OST) – that the “ex­plo­ration and use

of outer space … shall be car­ried out for the ben­e­fit and in the in­ter­ests of all coun­tries … and shall be the prov­ince of all mankind”.56 Those are laud­able as­pi­ra­tions, but if we are to re­alise “the great prospects open­ing up be­fore mankind” in a com­mer­cial sense, there will need to be cer­tainty on what rights States, com­pa­nies, and in­di­vid­u­als can ex­er­cise in outer space.

This in­cludes such rights as ac­cess to, ten­ure over and ex­trac­tion of min­er­als in outer space – an en­deav­our of in­creas­ing im­por­tance as ter­res­trial re­sources be­come de­pleted to the point where they are no longer eco­nom­i­cally, or en­vi­ron­men­tally, vi­able to ex­tract.57

It also in­cludes the es­tab­lish­ment of colonies in or­bit and on ce­les­tial bod­ies – po­ten­tially as a ‘back-up' for planet Earth, and be­cause we feel com­pelled, as a species, to ex­plore.58

There is cur­rently lit­tle in place to re­solve a dis­pute be­tween two par­ties seek­ing to un­der­take the same ac­tiv­i­ties, in the same place, at the same time. Fur­ther­more, with­out cer­tainty on these rights, ob­tain­ing finance and mak­ing com­mer­cial de­ci­sions on the risk ver­sus re­wards is sig­nif­i­cantly more dif­fi­cult.59 And what of the great sci­en­tific prospects from the ex­plo­ration of outer space? With­out some as­sur­ance of on­go­ing fund­ing and of non-in­ter­fer­ence by other ac­tiv­i­ties (such as com­mer­cial ac­tiv­i­ties), many space ex­plo­ration projects for sci­en­tific pur­poses may not be vi­able.

It is cur­rently left to States (not a supra-na­tional body) to au­tho­rise and con­tin­u­ally su­per­vise “na­tional ac­tiv­i­ties in outer space”.60 So in an era of rapidly grow­ing com­mer­cial value, a ‘low­im­pact' reg­u­la­tory frame­work may of­fer one State a com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tage rel­a­tive to an­other. That is, a State that does not en­force proac­tive mea­sures to avoid con­ges­tion, for ex­am­ple, may be more likely to at­tract for­eign in­vest­ment to its shores. It be­comes, to use a term from the mar­itime en­vi­ron­ment, a ‘flag of con­ve­nience'.61

Whereas the US cur­rently has a quite com­pre­hen­sive and re­spon­si­ble reg­u­la­tory frame­work for su­per­vis­ing space ac­tiv­i­ties, the Amer­i­can Space Com­merce Free En­ter­prise Act seeks to sig­nif­i­cantly re­duce the reg­u­la­tory bur­den, thereby pro­mot­ing more space com­merce in the US.62 This is in ad­di­tion to leg­is­la­tion from Novem­ber 2015 that al­low its com­mer­cial en­ti­ties to ex­tract min­er­als and to deal with ex­tracted min­er­als as their own (for ex­am­ple, to pos­sess, own, use and sell them),63 not­with­stand­ing that, ac­cord­ing to the OST, outer space is “not sub­ject to na­tional ap­pro­pri­a­tion by claim of sovereignty, by means of use or oc­cu­pa­tion, or by any other means.” 64

Lux­em­bourg has passed sim­i­lar leg­is­la­tion.65 Mean­while, re­vised leg­is­la­tion on the reg­u­la­tion of space ac­tiv­i­ties is ex­pected to be in­tro­duced into Aus­tralian par­lia­ment in the very near fu­ture, with a sim­i­lar aim. 66

That is not to say that any State should be ac­cused of be­ing a space ‘flag of con­ve­nience' just yet, but there is an ap­par­ent com­mer­cial im­pe­tus to ig­nore longer-term prob­lems, in favour of short-term prof­its.

2.4 Com­mons

In the race to use, ex­plore and ex­ploit outer space, in­clud­ing the con­gested Earth or­bits, to pro­tect your use and deny oth­ers the ben­e­fits of space in the con­text of hos­til­i­ties, and to ob­tain and pre­serve com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tage for your com­mer­cial en­ti­ties, some na­tions may pre­vail at the ex­pense of oth­ers – de­spite the noble as­pi­ra­tions in the OST.

Fur­ther­more, if the use of outer space is un­sus­tain­able, then the cur­rent gen­er­a­tion may en­joy more of the ben­e­fits, than the next and fu­ture


gen­er­a­tions. Not only is this in con­trast to the as­pi­ra­tions of the OST that the use and ex­plo­ration of outer space “shall be the prov­ince of all mankind”,67 it is at odds with the un­de­ni­able re­al­ity of the grow­ing im­por­tance of civil so­ci­ety.

To­day, in the devel­oped world, al­most ev­ery­one can con­nect to ev­ery­one else, thanks in a large part to ex­ist­ing and grow­ing space in­fra­struc­ture68 and projects like the ‘Other 3 Bil­lion' (O3B) are seek­ing to con­nect peo­ple in the de­vel­op­ing world.69 This al­lows peo­ple to iden­tify not just with their na­tions, but also to iden­tify them­selves with broader con­cerns shared within global civil so­ci­ety.

Thus, if global civil so­ci­ety per­ceives that space is be­ing used con­trary to global and in­ter-gen­er­a­tional equity, it is a global con­cern that tran­scends na­tional bound­aries. If the use and ex­plo­ration of outer space truly is the prov­ince of all hu­man­ity, then how is ‘hu­man­ity' (via States) given a voice?

3 Role of the Aus­tralian Space Agency

Pub­lic, com­mer­cial, sci­en­tific and civil as­pi­ra­tions for space are not nec­es­sar­ily in­con­sis­tent. For the most part, the chal­lenges above are shared, global chal­lenges, across all sec­tors of the space com­mu­nity. Any so­lu­tions that Aus­tralia can de­velop are po­ten­tially so­lu­tions that may be em­braced by the global space com­mu­nity as a whole.

The chal­lenges there­fore rep­re­sent pos­i­tive op­por­tu­ni­ties for the sort of in­no­va­tive re­searchers and en­ter­prises that char­ac­terise the Aus­tralian space com­mu­nity. In or­der to help Aus­tralia de­velop so­lu­tions that will be em­braced, the ASA will need to main­tain aware­ness and in­flu­ence glob­ally, en­gage all sec­tors of the com­mu­nity glob­ally and do­mes­ti­cally, guide and lead the do­mes­tic space com­mu­nity, fa­cil­i­tate multi-disciplinary col­lab­o­ra­tion within the do­mes­tic space in­dus­try and ad­vo­cate for our so­lu­tions glob­ally.

Aus­tralia is al­ready in­volved in space mat­ters in the United Na­tions Com­mit­tee on the Peace­ful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS), in the Con­fer­ence on Dis­ar­ma­ment, the UN Gen­eral As­sem­bly First and Fourth Com­mit­tees and else­where. The ASA will be in­volved in con­tin­u­ing the rep­re­sen­ta­tion of Aus­tralia's in­ter­ests in those bod­ies, in con­junc­tion with the Depart­ment of For­eign Af­fairs and Trade. 70

Aus­tralia has been pre­vi­ously un­der­rep­re­sented in for­mal set­tings in­volv­ing na­tional space agen­cies (lack­ing a space agency of our own) and in global space in­dus­try events. We have had rep­re­sen­ta­tion in peak bod­ies of spe­cific seg­ments of the space com­mu­nity, like the Com­mit­tee on Earth Ob­ser­va­tion Satel­lites (CEOS)71 and the Com­mit­tee on Space Re­search (COSPAR),72 al­beit

with­out an over­ar­ch­ing, co­or­di­nated, na­tional ap­proach. The ASA must con­tinue and seek to ex­pand Aus­tralian rep­re­sen­ta­tion to main­tain aware­ness of pol­icy po­si­tions, chal­lenges, po­ten­tial so­lu­tions and in­no­va­tions.

We have a pos­i­tive rep­u­ta­tion in those fora, and ob­vi­ously, that must con­tinue. A co­or­di­nated, na­tional ap­proach rep­re­sents an op­por­tu­nity to proac­tively use our rep­u­ta­tion to ex­tend our in­flu­ence – not just to con­trib­ute to the agenda, but to frame the agenda – and not just to iden­tify op­por­tu­ni­ties, but to ac­tu­ally cre­ate op­por­tu­ni­ties.

The op­por­tu­nity to main­tain the high­est lev­els of aware­ness and to have in­flu­ence also arises in less of­fi­cial set­tings. The ra­tio­nale for multi-sec­toral en­gage­ment is to unify the Aus­tralian space com­mu­nity, to lever­age our rel­a­tively small but ag­ile pop­u­la­tion, and ul­ti­mately, to iden­tify and de­velop more holis­tic so­lu­tions. The ASA must en­gage the pop­u­la­tion di­rectly, in light of the great in­ter­est that space in­spires, the sci­ence, tech­nol­ogy, en­gi­neer­ing and math­e­mat­ics knowl­edge, skills and ex­pe­ri­ence that in­di­vid­u­als can bring to the in­dus­try and, not least, be­cause of the un­de­ni­able and grow­ing power of civil so­ci­ety.

With­out in­dus­try, of course, there will be no goods and ser­vices for the ben­e­fit of so­ci­ety gen­er­ally. The ASA must un­der­stand the chal­lenges that in­dus­try faces and work col­lab­o­ra­tively on reg­u­la­tory set­tings that en­hance our do­mes­tic in­dus­try. With­out sci­ence and re­search, in­no­va­tion will stall, so the ASA must be able to iden­tify, fund and sup­port the trans­for­ma­tion of tech­ni­cal in­no­va­tions into vi­able so­lu­tions for in­dus­trial ap­pli­ca­tion. 73

Fi­nally, with­out broader gov­ern­ment objectives im­ple­mented through spe­cific poli­cies, there will be lit­tle co­or­di­na­tion and di­rec­tion to en­sure re­turns on in­vest­ment to the pub­lic at large, now and into the fu­ture. At present, there are dis­parate re­spon­si­bil­i­ties for space is­sues across Aus­tralian fed­eral, state and ter­ri­tory agen­cies74 and the ASA will play a key role in co­or­di­nat­ing their ef­forts con­sis­tent with a uni­fied, na­tional strat­egy.75

In re­spect of each one of those sec­tors, there is a for­mal and rel­a­tively con­ven­tional role for the ASA: to ed­u­cate, reg­u­late, fund and co­or­di­nate. That will not be enough to help Aus­tralia de­velop so­lu­tions that may be em­braced by the global space com­mu­nity as a whole. The ASA must also lead.

It should in­spire the pop­u­la­tion and the next gen­er­a­tion to get be­hind the Aus­tralian space com­mu­nity and what it is seek­ing to achieve. It should fa­cil­i­tate and sup­port sci­ence and re­search in ev­ery step of the trans­for­ma­tion into vi­able so­lu­tions for in­dus­trial ap­pli­ca­tion. It should guide the co­or­di­na­tion of gov­ern­men­tal agen­cies, step up and out in front as a trusted ad­vi­sor on a uni­fied, na­tional strat­egy for space.

And hav­ing done all of that, it should ac­tively col­lab­o­rate with in­dus­try to pro­duce com­pet­i­tive so­lu­tions that en­com­pass the in­ter­ests of all sec­tors of the space com­mu­nity.

Space Traf­fic Man­age­ment is a good ex­am­ple of the need for multi-disciplinary ap­proaches. There are a va­ri­ety of en­ter­prises that have com­mit­ted them­selves to ad­dress­ing the problem of grow­ing space de­bris, but de­spite their sci­en­tific in­no­va­tion in con­ceiv­ing of tech­ni­cal so­lu­tions,76 they need in­put from at least two other dis­ci­plines.

First, they need to iden­tify a busi­ness

There are dis­parate re­spon­si­bil­i­ties for space is­sues across Aus­tralian fed­eral, state and ter­ri­tory agen­cies and the ASA will play a key role in co­or­di­nat­ing their ef­forts con­sis­tent with a uni­fied, na­tional strat­egy.

ASA will need to sup­port not just tech­no­log­i­cal en­ter­prises in Aus­tralia, but also home-grown en­ter­prises that fa­cil­i­tate aware­ness and in­flu­ence.

case, or a com­ple­men­tary eco­nomic en­vi­ron­ment – why, or in what cir­cum­stances would some­one pay for de­bris re­moval ser­vices when there is no im­per­a­tive on in­di­vid­ual space op­er­a­tors to ‘clean up their mess'?77

Se­condly, it needs a reg­u­la­tory en­vi­ron­ment that sup­ports its tech­ni­cal so­lu­tions – the cur­rent reg­u­la­tory frame­work ex­poses their prospec­tive ac­tiv­i­ties to un­cer­tain risk and level of li­a­bil­ity, and there is no clear le­gal ba­sis for un­der­tak­ing ac­tive de­bris man­age­ment against space ob­jects whose prove­nance is un­known, or whose States of reg­istry do not re­spond pos­i­tively, or at all, to re­quests for con­sent.78

This ex­am­ple is im­por­tant for us, be­cause Aus­tralia could se­cure a com­mer­cially and strate­gi­cally valu­able niche in the crit­i­cal STM func­tion for the global space com­mu­nity. 79 We have a grow­ing num­ber of Space Sit­u­a­tional Aware­ness sen­sors in Aus­tralia, 80 we have com­pa­nies like Skykraft, 81 EOS, 82 and Neu­mann Space83 seek­ing to cre­ate tech­ni­cal so­lu­tions with a busi­ness case, we have a solid global rep­u­ta­tion in air traf­fic man­age­ment and search and res­cue (we are re­spon­si­ble for 11% of the Earth's sur­face), 84 and we have le­gal in­no­va­tors, like Ade­laide Law School, seek­ing reg­u­la­tory frame­works that would sup­port all of this. 85 A lit­tle fa­cil­i­ta­tion from the ASA would go a long way.

Fi­nally, the ASA must ad­vo­cate for the so­lu­tions that the Aus­tralian space com­mu­nity can pro­vide to ad­dress the chal­lenges con­fronting the space com­mu­nity glob­ally. Hav­ing en­gaged broadly in of­fi­cial and un­of­fi­cial con­texts, and iden­ti­fied and cre­ated op­por­tu­ni­ties, the ASA must ‘com­plete the circle' by pro­mot­ing Aus­tralian so­lu­tions, and also fa­cil­i­tate the pair­ing of Aus­tralian in­dus­try with those seek­ing so­lu­tions.

With a modest, up­front in­vest­ment in the ASA and an in­ter­nal, De­part­men­tal struc­ture, the agency will need to rely on a lot of ex­ter­nal lever­age to ful­fil the prospec­tive roles de­scribed above. Such a modest in­vest­ment does en­tail sig­nif­i­cant risk that, if that lever­age comes from for­eign sources, then we cede po­ten­tial, fu­ture ben­e­fits to for­eign in­ter­ests.

There­fore, the ASA will need to sup­port not just tech­no­log­i­cal en­ter­prises in Aus­tralia, but also home-grown en­ter­prises that fa­cil­i­tate aware­ness and in­flu­ence, multi-sec­toral en­gage­ment, guid­ance and lead­er­ship, multi-disciplinary col­lab­o­ra­tion and ad­vo­cacy.

If the ASA can do so, there is a very bright fu­ture for the Aus­tralian space com­mu­nity, as a global leader in pro­vid­ing so­lu­tions to the con­sid­er­able chal­lenges con­fronting the global space race.

A trun­cated list of ref­er­ences and ci­ta­tions is in­cluded on page 44. The full, ex­ten­sive list of ci­ta­tions is avail­able at: http://bit.ly/aqs­pace

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