The South Australian government says it wants to capitalise on the fast-growing multi-billion-dollar business around space, announcing the creation of a South Australian Space Industry Centre.
The government said the centre (SASIC) would help to fuel space industry innovation, encourage startups and create high-tech jobs.
The announcement comes ahead of the International Astronautical Congress which is being held in Adelaide next week, with some of the largest space agencies and companies – including NASA and SpaceX – to be in attendance.
“We know that the space industry in this country and around the world is growing at about three times the rate of growth [of] the rest of the growth in the world economy,” Premier Jay Weatherill said.
“The eyes of the world will be on South Australia next week.”
The congress is expected to attract 3500 delegates from across the world, including some very high-profile guests.
“At the end of the week, we’ll also hear from Elon Musk. He’ll update [us] in relation to his Mars program,” the Premier said.
SASIC will be run alongside Defence SA, and the state government hopes it will soon be part of a national space agency.
The centre will provide grants of $1 million per year to develop local space businesses, and encourage research and development.
As part of this week’s cabinet reshuffle, the government created an expanded portfolio to include both Defence and Space Industries.
Mr Weatherill acknowledged the “important connection” between “our defence industries and space industries”, but also outlined the benefits for the local economy.
“It’s not just about rockets and astronauts,” he said.
“All of those things can provide incredibly important things for terrestrial uses.”
Mr Weatherill said data that would be useful to farmers was one such use, and was also talking up the state’s history in rocketry and satellites.
“South Australia 50 years ago launched its first rocket from the Woomera rocket range,” he said.
“We’re one of the first three countries in the world to launch a satellite from its own territory.”
Momentum builds for Australian space agency
South Australia and the ACT have joined forces to spearhead a campaign to develop a national space agency, signing a memorandum of understanding in August.
The NT and WA governments have also expressed an interest to sign up.
Mr Weatherill has also acknowledged rumours the Prime Minister may be a surprise at next week’s conference, and said that might be a good sign of an imminent announcement.
“We’ve written to the Prime Minister to create a national space agency … we’re encouraging him to make an announcement to that end,” Mr Weatherill said.
“There has been some speculation of the Prime Minister himself turning up. He’d be very welcome.
“You’d imagine he’s not going to turn up to say very little.”
Despite prominent calls from scientists, including Adelaide-born astronaut Dr Andrew Thomas, a federal review into a proposal to develop an Australian Space Agency isn’t expected back for at least six months.
“The review should now focus on the shape and form of that agency,” Mr Weatherill said.
The Premier said he hoped the creation of SASIC, and the MOU between SA and the ACT, would show the Commonwealth the state was serious about conquering the cosmos.
“We want to put a tangible investment in place so we can say, with some credibility, we want to be your partner in the establishment of a national space agency,” he said.