By Byron Connolly
June 13, 2017
The co-founder of Adelaide space technology, Fleet, has called on the federal government to create a dedicated space agency.
The government's review of legislation to reform the Space Activities Act 1998 is an important shift in attitude that outlines the possibility that it is now focusing on high areas of growth for our economy through innovation, Fleet's Flavia Tata Nardini said on Tuesday.
"One outcome of this reform process must be a dedicated Australian Space Agency," Nardini said in an open letter to the government.
"Many businesses in the industry will survive with or without a dedicated space agency, but they rely purely on private sector overseas funding. Others may not - many space tech startups simply can't afford to stay in Australia as they face impossibly competitive challenges against foreign businesses already backed by major agencies," said Nardini.
If they can't afford to stay, several will leave and plant roots where they can receive government support and funding, Nardini said.
"This migration has already stripped Australia of locally-led innovation, including the brilliant talent and economic value it fosters, such as the jobs that come with the creation of new industries and technologies.
"Yet the issue at stake isn't funding, though a government-led commitment would certainly help. The issue is a national, coherent strategy that promotes our national goals and engages Australia in the establishment of global space protocols," Nardini said.
Nardini believes an Australian space agency would enable a strategy for a complex and currently 'fractured' industry. It will unite Australia's space goals with that of the world's, foster collaboration between nations, and spur on innovation that will serve tomorrow's businesses, she says.
"This is a necessity as the next industrial revolution is going to start in space. Emerging space technologies and the data they return will usher in mass-scale efficiencies here on earth, shifting industries like mining, logistics, technology, farming, mobility, connectivity, and environmental care, for good."
Nardini said Australia is "perfectly positioned" to explore the final frontier, pointing to our success playing a role in the space exploration of other countries.
NASA has a deep space tracking facility in Tidbinbilla in Canberra, there is the European Space Agency's New Norcia deep space antenna one in Western Australia, and the Square Kilometre Array radio telescope to be built in Australia and South Africa in 2018, said Nardini.
In April, Fleet received $5 million in funding to launch a constellation of nanosatellites that will connect the world's 75 billion devices by 2025. The Series A funding was led by venture capital firm Blackbird Ventures with co-investment from Atlassian's Mike Cannon-Brookes, Earth Space Robotics, and Horizon Partners in Silicon Valley.
In late May, Queensland's Gilmour Space Technologies also raised $5 million in a Series A funding round led by Blackbird Ventures, with participation from 500 startups.