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Australia looks to join the space age

Australia: The second round of the four-year, AUD 40 million (USD 36 million) Australian Space Research Programme (ASRP), part of a four-year, AUD 46.8 million Australian Space Science Programme, concluded. The programme created a dedicated Space Policy Unit within the Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, to act as the central point of contact for the country’s national and international civil space activities.

The policy will cover civil and defence matters and may address how Australia uses space to tackle climate change, weather forecasting, natural resource management, forestry and agriculture, disaster management, national security, communications, Earth observation and remote sensing, position navigation and timing applications. The policy will also detail Australia’s engagement and participation on the global stage, according to the unit.

The unit is also talking to space agencies around the world with a view to increasing international co-operative activities. For example, Australia is currently working with the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) to provide re-entry and recovery support for JAXA’s Hayabusa spacecraft, which is due to land in June 2010 at the Woomera Prohibited Area after completion of its mission to return to Earth material from an asteroid.

The Australian Space Science Programme is in turn part of a wider AUD 1.1 billion Super Science development initiative. The government also recently established the Space Industry Innovation Council – comprising representatives from the space science research, industry and government – to provide strategic advice on innovation priorities to government, champion innovation in the space sector and build connections with other organisations.

The renewed focus on space is part of government efforts for the country to secure some of the USD 250 billion annually generated by the global space industry.

The moves were spurred by the 2008 Senate report, which found the Australian space industry to be fragmented, with a lack of clarity in organisation and shortage of cash. That report concluded the greatest space opportunity for Australia is in looking down to use satellites for Earth observation, as well as for communications and navigation.

Source: Flight