Aussie astronaut to go to space as government announces $65 million funding


Fleet Space, Centauri 3 launching into orbit on Tuesday 23 March. Photo: Rocket Lab

The federal government has told the national space agency to embark on a mission to send an Aussie astronaut into space, and also announced $65 million more funding into the sector to get local technology ‘into space sooner’.

On Friday Prime Minister Scott Morrison issued a statement declaring his government was boosting investment to expand the space sector. The money would be spent on developing cutting-edge technologies and creating jobs, he said, underscoring that $800 million had been spent since 2018 to triple the size of Australia’s space sector.

The Australian Space Agency has also been tasked with international partners to put an Australian astronaut back into space.

“The journey to sending an Australian into space means serious investment in local jobs, local technologies and local businesses,” Morrison said.

“All of that means new technologies that make things simpler and safer, the job opportunities that come from a booming industry or the technology advancements that can be applied in our everyday lives,” he added, referring to the government’s goal of making an extra 20,000 space sector jobs by 2030.

The Australian Space Agency will get another funding allocation exceeding $32 million to deliver spaceflights and services. Some of this money will go towards a new ‘flight qualification’, which will certify the transition of technology from the laboratory to space, and a $3.5 million national student space challenge to send payloads into orbit.

According to space agency head Enrico Palermo, the gaps in the local sector would be addressed by the government’s Fast-Tracking Access to Space package. In particular, he said the money would back initiatives to get new products into space more quickly.

“This co-investment in the development of spaceports makes Australia’s intentions clear — we want to become a launch nation of choice to attract further private sector investment,” Palermo said.

“We are already a desirable launch location thanks to a range of factors, including our unique geographic perspective and political stability — this investment will cement that reputation.”

The development of three new or existing spaceports will also benefit from more than $32 million in government co-investment.

Science and technology minister Melissa Price said she hoped the government money would grow business capability and improve access to global supply chains.

“Investments via the Australian Space Agency and prioritising the space sector through our Modern Manufacturing Strategy and Australia’s Economic Accelerator [sic] are an investing in the future of all Australians,” Price said.

South Australian Premier Steven Marshall acknowledged the funding announcement was part of the federal government’s election campaign. He welcomed the boost to his state’s industry and said 1,600 space sector jobs had already been created in SA.

“Today’s announcement is going to see that number take off,” Marshall said.

“This sector is going gangbusters and it’s going to mean our young South Australians can have a rewarding career in the space sector right here without having to move interstate or overseas,” he said.

South Australia hosts the Space Discovery Centre, Mission Control, the Australian Space Agency, the Australian Space Park and more than 90 space-related companies.

This article was first published by The Mandarin.


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