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Government announces sovereign Earth Observation space constellation

The Australian Government has announced Australia’s first-ever national space mission as part of its 2022-23 Budget. The figures disclosed on 29 March include $1.16 billion out to 2038-39 and $38.5 million per annum thereafter for the first phase of a National Space Mission for Earth Observation, which will see Australia design, build, and operate four new satellites.

Led by the Australian Space Agency, this Mission will make Australia more self sufficient when it comes to critical Earth Observation data, while also growing capability and job opportunities that will set the industry up for future success.

Minister for Science and Technology Melissa Price said this was the most significant investment ever made in Australia’s civil space sector. However, no details have been disclosed yet of how contractors will be selected to design, build and launch the satellites.

“The information we get from Earth observation satellites is central to our everyday life – from forecasting the weather and responding to natural disasters through to managing the environment and supporting our farmers,” Minister Price said. “This in an investment both for the now and the future of the Australian space sector. Developing and launching these first four Australian satellites will create the foundation of industry know-how for more complex space missions next decade.”

It is estimated the project will create more than 500 jobs over the first four years of the build phase, with an anticipated supplier network of more than 100 companies from across Australia.

The National Space Mission will be led by the Australian Space Agency in partnership with Geoscience Australia, CSIRO, the Bureau of Meteorology and Defence.

The Budget also includes:

  • $65.7 million over five years from 2021-22 to set the conditions for rocket launch from Australia and fast track the launch of space assets and research projects by Australian businesses and researchers
  • $12.1 million over five years from 2021-22 (and $0.3 million per year ongoing) to remove cost recovery requirements under the Space (Launches and Returns) Act 2018 and undertake a regulatory reform program to streamline interactions with industry
  • $9.5 million over two years from 2021-22 to develop a Space Strategic Update to provide direction on future funding opportunities and align Australia’s space efforts;
  • $3.0 million in 2022-23 to extend the International Space Investment initiative and continue building relationships with international space agencies
  • $25.2 million to expand the International Space Investment initiative and provide funding for Australian businesses and research organisations to work on projects with the Indian Space Research Organisation and the broader Indian space sector.

This funding takes the total amount committed by the Government to the civil space sector to well over $2 billion since the establishment of the Australian Space Agency in 2018. That is in addition to the $85.9 million the Government has committed to space industry skills and jobs here in Australia as part of the $1.3 billion Modern Manufacturing Initiative (MMI) which targets six high-growth sectors, include Defence and Space.

The Budget also includes $37.4 million to 2025-26 to establish a new CSIRO Research Translation Start program to build further cooperation between researchers and industry and supercharge their commercialisation journeys.

Other specific initiatives funded in the budget include:

  • More than $450 million in funding for CSIRO to ensure the continuation of critical scientific research in a range of priority areas
  • More than $530 million from 2019-20 to 2024-25 for a wide range of ANSTO activities, including research, nuclear medicine production, asset maintenance and waste management
  • $124 million to make Australia a world leader in artificial intelligence through the AI Action Plan
  • More than $387 million in funding to meet Australia’s commitments as co-host of the Square Kilometre Array radio telescope.
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