Space Town Hall: Securing Australia’s Role in the Space Industry
Advance.org members and friends from around the world came together to discuss different perspectives and opportunities for Australia in the space sector, from an illustrious panel of experts.
The Chair of Advance.org, Yasmin Allen, welcomed the speakers and audience, noting Advance’s two-fold motivation for hosting a global town hall on Space – a topic of immediate relevance to Australia: 1) to share the insights of experts from Australia’s diaspora with decision-makers in Australia, and 2) to keep Advance members updated on industry developments in Australia. Yasmin also noted the long history of indigenous astronomy in Australia, the increased emphasis of it in the national curriculum, and the strong platform it provides for future developments.
In a conversation facilitated by Advance CEO, Johanna Pitman, the panelists shared technological developments and public and private investments underpinning the space industry, and the flow-on effects they have for many other industries.
Australia’s role in the space industry
Jane Duke, Australia’s Consul-General to Los Angeles, set the scene for the discussion, offering insight into why Australia is focused on being an integral player in the global space industry, which according to the Bank of America, could be worth $1.4 trillion by 2030. Building on deep connections Australia has with countries including the United States, collaboration is the best way Australia can get, and keep its foot in the door with countries that have more established space sectors. The unique capability Australia has on the global stage, with an unparalleled geographical position, expertise in advanced manufacturing, robotics and quantum technologies, can be leveraged to drive sustainable growth.
Relevance to diverse industries
Anthony Murfett, Deputy Head of the Australian Space Agency, shared his insight into the government’s motivation for increasing Australia’s space capability. He outlined many different subsectors of the space industry, and showed how investing in our space industry is also an investment into Australia’s travel industry, our agriculture industry, our telecommunications industry, aviation, weather… the list goes on. He stressed the importance of using Australia’s capabilities to lift up not only the space industry, but each of the industries flowing from it.
Finding novel solutions
Dr Chris Boshuizen, Partner at the venture capital firm DCVC and Australia’s most recent space traveler, shared the different aspects of his career in the space industry, building on his research in Australia to work at NASA and then across the development of new solutions at the frontiers of space and earthly applications. A tireless advocate for space exploration, and an Advance Board member, Chris shared how he and a team of engineers developed a new type of cheaper satellite that utilised the most current technology at the time – a mobile phone – to better and more accurately map the world. Chris stressed the importance of collaboration within the industry, and how utilising the skills and expertise of those around him, he was able to revolutionise the satellite and its applications.
Blazing a trail
Adam Gilmour, CEO and Founder of Gilmour Space Technologies, elaborated on the nature of collaboration with the Australian ecosystem, showing how grants from the government, as well as private investment from VCs, allowed him to build his next generation rocket company right here in Australia. Adam stressed that while his company may be one of the first of its kind in Australia, it certainly won’t be the last, with the expectation that more rockets will be launched over the following few years than the collective history of the space industry, globally.
Keeping it sustainable
Phil Ridley, CEO of Quasar Satellite Technologies, illuminated how exponential growth of the space industry is impacting operations on the ground. Quasar is focused on the ground operations of satellites, filling a void of outdated infrastructure on Earth that is incapable of keeping up with the launch rate of new satellites. In learning about this huge acceleration in space technology, Phil also weighed in on one of the topics of most interest to the audience, the increased level of space junk that comes from this acceleration, as well as ways in which the space industry may grow in a more sustainable way.
Remote monitoring for health
Prof Carolyn McGregor AM, Research Excellence Chair in Health Informatics at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, revealed a very different side of the space industry, including research into the health of astronauts. New, faster techniques for remote health monitoring, and better telecommunications links are producing niche markets and growth opportunities for those that can get in quick enough. She shared examples of space research having wide-ranging benefits for medicine back on Earth.
New frontiers and challenges
Recorded video presentations from additional experts further expanded the perspectives shaping the discussion:
- Andrea Boyd, Deputy Lead of Astronaut Operations at the European Space Agency,
- Annie Handmer, PhD candidate tracing the social history of Australian space science projects
- Richard Price, Defence SA Chief Executive, outlining the breadth of investments and industry activities led by South Australia
- Vienna Tran, space medicine researcher and soon-to-be doctor in regional SA
We know that Australia’s opportunity to capitalise on its natural advantages and deploy our efforts strategically will benefit diverse industries.Yasmin Allen, Advance Chairman
The global town hall audience, who spanned 20 different countries, represented different professions, sectors, and degrees of existing knowledge about the Space Economy. Audience questions for the panel explored how Australia can be a reliable international partner, how to maintain a strong pipeline of innovation in Australia, diversity in the space industry, and ethical considerations for space-related activities. The discussion also included a personal account from Chris Boshuizen of his recent space flight aboard Blue Origin!
This global town hall showed the opportunity for Australia to be a powerhouse in the global space economy, based on underlying commitments to research and education, a growing innovation pipeline, and the success of small space companies that are making waves internationally. State and Federal governments are further facilitating growth through international collaboration and investments in the industry ecosystem and skills. Advance has recognised many Australian space experts who have built their careers overseas. The two-way exchange of talent to and from Australia will continue to be a key driver of the rapid growth of the industry in Australia.