How to get the Australian space economy into the stars?
This article on the Australian space economy first appeared in Cosmos Weekly on September 10, 2021. For more stories like this subscribe to Cosmos Weekly.
Tthe promise of the global space economy has been recognized. Innovation is celebrated. Ambitions are nourished. The time has come for these seedlings to bloom.
It still requires effort.
Australia must embrace a sense of urgency. But it must be tempered by accepting the risk that space has always embodied. It is only when our space sector is recognized as a national enterprise that the poppies we have planted will be able to grow.
The environmental and logistical challenges of space push us to innovate, to push back technological frontiers and to create new market sectors. Morgan Stanley expects global space revenues to grow from US $ 350 billion ($ 474 billion) in 2020 to $ 1,000 billion ($ 1.355 billion) by 2040, largely thanks to to the construction of satellite constellations. The promise of the global space economy will take imagination and daring to come true, but it is potentially transformative for the economy at large.
This is especially the case in Australia, blessed with a geography that is almost ideal for supporting space launch, deep space exploration and space tourism. We have an entrepreneurial ecosystem, even on a small scale, of space and innovation. But innovation needs support, direction and time. It also requires that we accept that we may fail completely in some endeavors. It requires a risk appetite and pocket depth that not all Australian investors, government and private, may share. We must also recognize that we can be spectacularly successful and not shy away from this potential, we must proudly defend poppies so tall.
Rocket science is synonymous with advanced, challenging and risky endeavors. It is the benchmark for excellence that superpowers and billionaire start-ups compare and contrast.
Space science is the foundation of the world’s fastest growing economic sector. Judging by recent large venture capital investments in the US (investors invested US $ 10 billion in the 2010-2020 launch and added US $ 3 billion in Q1 / Q2 2021 alone), this expectation could in fact be outdated. The Australian Space Agency’s goals are to increase the growth of Australia’s space industry to $ 12 billion by 2030.
The imperative to develop Australia’s space sector goes beyond commercial; it is of crucial importance for defense, with sovereign capabilities in space essential to our future national security and prosperity.
To understand future opportunities and the specific steps Australia should take to realize them, we first need to understand the current state of Australia’s space sector. Generally speaking, the sector has excellent international relations, including through universities, with organizations such as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Agency. Japanese space (JAXA). He has decades of experience in providing spatial situational awareness and communications (primarily in deep space) to these partners through CSIRO. The Australian Department of Defense participates in the Combined Space Operations Initiative with Five Eyes partners. It connects political, operational and capability personnel across countries, and underpins the most critical strategic relationships we rely on to access the most sophisticated global space architecture.
Through defense companies like Boeing, Leidos, Airbus, Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin and BAE Systems, we have industry-focused partnerships that have integrated local manufacturing into a global supply chain for the most technologically advanced systems. . Examples abound, such as Electro Optic Systems (EOS), Marand Precision Engineering, Titomic, Amaero, Nova Systems, all related to very large initiatives in space and defense not only at national level but also in international competition.
With $ 61 million recently invested in a Series C funding round, Gilmour Space Technologies has received more private funding than the Australian Space Agency as a whole for four years operations, making real the exciting and necessary promise of sovereign launch capability for small-scale launches. He also positioned Gilmour well to act as National Premier alongside EOS and Nova Systems.
We also have nascent but rapidly growing spaceport providers nationally as well, in the Top End through Equatorial Launch Australia, Southern Launch in South Australia and most recently Gilmour at Abbot Point in Queensland. Potential customers for these launch capabilities include NASA as well as innovative commercial rocket companies (domestic and international) and domestic satellite operators.
Notable space Internet of Things providers such as Myriota and Fleet Space Technologies are growing rapidly by connecting low bit rate ground sensors across Australia and beyond. FrontierSI provides products and information to end users in industry and government with AI applied to remote sensing from private and public satellites. Monitoring of this occupied primary orbital real estate is continued by the end-to-end mapping platform for space by LeoLabs, promising a level of space domain knowledge unparalleled in this hemisphere.
In general, downstream opportunities that use data from space, as opposed to upstream industries such as rocket or communications satellite building, are generally cheaper to fund and represent a growing startup community that is leveraging data science skills of our world’s graduates. – renowned universities. A number of these startups have formed the Aurora cluster of the CRC SmartSat and offer an exciting way to rapidly expand the space sector in absolute numbers, as well as interactions with adjacent sectors like agriculture. This CRC represents the largest concentration of space R&D funds outside defense programs and is a key driver of innovation and the transposition of research from universities to industry.
But we need to encourage more industry collaboration with (and ultimately knowledge transfer from) our academia.
Venture capital (VC) funds and angel investors can be encouraged through improved ratios of government matching funding programs. Pension funds could be mobilized to create a national space building activity through a more informed sector risk assessment. We have seen such a venture before by major pension funds HESTA, Hostplus and NGS Super, who have joined this Series C fundraiser for Gilmour through VC Funds nationally (Main Sequence Ventures, Blackbird Ventures) and internationally. (with US Fine Structure Ventures). . If this opens the door to further large capital inflows, we could unleash the private sector nationwide by providing new techniques and technologies.
Yet an entire national ecosystem also needs an astronomically important signal of attraction. For this, significant resources and a sense of urgency, coupled with a willingness to risk short-term failure to provide longer-term sovereign capacity, are needed.
The development of our space sector is nothing less than a national enterprise, and it is only a coordinated approach of national systems which can probably achieve it on a large scale. By perceiving the space domain as a national infrastructure challenge, we can guarantee greater investment certainty for national and international actors over the years, guarantee the maturity of the supply chain in the country and its competitiveness at outside.
This investment cannot be scattered, it must be strategically and deliberately concentrated in constituencies or hubs that generate a critical mass that becomes self-sufficient. There are choices involved. Large poppies require selective breeding, and not all sub-sectors or businesses will thrive. But we need to invest strategically in some if we are to achieve a more prosperous future for all.
This article was co-authored by Professor Alan Duffy, Director of the Space Technology and Industry Institute at Swinburne University of Technology and Principal Scientist at RiAus; and Rebecca shrimpton, Sector Head – Defense, Space and Infrastructure at the Australian Trade and Investment Commission (Austrade).
This article first appeared in Cosmos Weekly on September 10, 2021. To see more in-depth stories like this subscribe today and access our weekly ezine, as well as all back issues of Cosmos Weekly..