By KATE BANVILLE | EXCLUSIVE
A REGION of deserts and semi-arid land; could Outback Queensland be the launchpad for Australia’s burgeoning space economy? Experts say yes.
As the new frontier of space exploration becomes increasingly crowded and contests for military dominance grows, those in the industry have been working to propel Australia forward as a leader in the global space race.
In an exclusive interview, Australian Space Agency’s general manager of space policy, Chris Hewett (pictured), told the Caller that exciting opportunities were taking off in western Queensland.
“Queensland has some geographic advantages that mean that it could be a great place to launch rockets from, depending on the orbit that you’re looking to go into,” Hewett said.
“There are a couple of commercial companies that are looking to establish their own spaceports in regional Queensland.
“I’m really excited to see how that plays out over the next few years.
“Ground stations need empty spaces and it’s in rural and regional Australia where we find space facilities.”
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In celebration of World Space Week held globally from October 4 – 10, Hewett spoke alongside other experts in the field at the University of Southern Queensland’s (UniSQ) inaugural Thought Leadership event, ‘How Australia is Contributing to the Future of Space’.
Joining Hewett was aerospace engineer Dr. Joni Sytsma, chief technology officer for Innovative Launch, Automation, Novel Materials, Communications, and Hypersonics (iLAuNCH), an Australian first program geared towards building a sovereign space capability by addressing critical gaps and accelerating development of a space manufacturing sector.
Led by the UniSQ, The Australian National University and the University of South Australia, the iLAuNCH Trailblazer program is based at UniSQ’s Toowoomba campus and includes more than 20 industry organisations with a mix of university, industry and government funds totalling $370.3 million to be invested from 2022–2026.
Sytsma said the program provided a rare opportunity to take advantage of Australia’s unique positioning in the world’s space ecosystem, given the nation’s trove of industrial resources and geographic features.
It’s something the United States has long leveraged off as the most significant actor in space through projects including Pine Gap – a United States intelligence facility on the outskirts of Alice Springs in the Northern Territory.
“The first thing that space gives you is communications and the second is intelligence,” Sytsma (pictured) said.
“All workers in the modern future will use space so it is imperative that we have an advantage, or at least we are competitive.
“Regional Queensland is perfect for rocket testing on the developmental scale, and what I see is some of these manufacturing hubs that exist out in rural locations to be repurposed for space.”
For the industry to really take off, Sytsma said it was critical the Australian Government remained focused on growing its space capabilities.
“What I really want to see is 10,000 more space jobs in Australia because if there’s jobs for them here then we’ll retain all that value that they’re going to create because it’s a knowledge economy,” she said.
“The government has a huge role to play in enabling that.
“I’m talking about grant programs, I’m talking about federal funds spent on initiatives for space, and it needs to be consistent.”