1. Introduction


In 1984, Dr Paul Scully-Power AM became the first Australian-born astronaut to make a space flight.1 As a Payload Specialist on-board a NASA Space Shuttle mission, Dr Scully-Power, an oceanographer, discovered that ‘spiral eddies’ – which are spiral currents in the ocean – are a common rather than rare feature of the world’s oceans.2
Eight years later, Dr Andrew Thomas became the first Australian-born member of NASA’s astronaut corps. Over four space flights and 177 days in space, Dr Thomas spent four months on the Russian Mir Space Station, completed a spacewalk to install components on the exterior of the International Space Station and undertook various scientific tests and experiments.3
When people think about space, they tend to think about the fascinating and extraordinary experiences of astronauts such as Dr Scully-Power and
Dr Thomas; of rockets and space stations, of space exploration and discovery, and of walking on the moon. The general perception of space and the space industry is that of an exclusive and highly specialised domain for exceptional people, or at the very least, for other countries. The reality of the space industry, however, is much closer to home.
Australians engage with the space industry and its technology on a daily basis. Space technology underpins the use of mobile phones, the internet, and GPS services. It is also central to a number of Australian industries such as agriculture, mining and emergency services. It is difficult to comprehend a world without the use of space and its applications. As described by the Australian Space Agency (ASA):
Space improves the lives of Australians every day. Space technology is critical to the modern economy, enabling services on Earth such as modern navigation, weather forecasting, internet access, online banking and crop management. The space sector creates high-tech jobs, supports a strong and agile manufacturing base, and inspires young Australians and career-changers to pursue skills and jobs in science, technology, engineering and maths.4
In the last five years, the world has witnessed a wave of new space activity.5 Rovers on Mars, mega constellations of small satellites, and commercial rockets with civilian crews are changing the way we interact with space.
The global space industry is valued at approximately $471 billion, and is predicted to be worth almost $1.5 trillion over the next 20 years.6 Countries around the world are positioning themselves to maximise the social and economic benefits of this global industry, including Australia.
In 2018-19, the Australian space industry generated an estimated $4.8 billion in revenue and employed approximately 9,000 - 10,000 workers.7 This revenue equates to 0.25 per cent of national GDP and 1.3 per cent of global space revenue.8 Sources suggest that the Australian space sector will grow at 7.1 per cent per annum over the five years to 2024.9 Other figures point to the sector achieving an estimated average of 8.6 per cent per annum to 2023.10
Given the rapid growth of the space industry globally and the enormous opportunities the sector presents to increase employment, strengthen the economy, and improve lives, the Australian Government has set a goal to increase space revenue to $12 billion and create an additional 20,000 jobs over the next decade.11 The aim of this inquiry was to examine how the Australian Government can facilitate this growth and best support the Australian space sector in a globally competitive industry.

Inquiry process

On 11 November 2020, the Standing Committee on Industry, Innovation, Science and Resources adopted an inquiry into Developing Australia’s Space Industry, referred by the then Minister for Industry, Science and Technology, the Hon Karen Andrews MP. The Committee was asked to focus on how the Australian Government can support and encourage the space industry while preserving and protecting the space environment. A copy of the Terms of Reference can be found at page xi.
The Committee announced its inquiry via media release on 30 November 2020, and called for written submissions. Eighty nine submissions, which are listed at Appendix A, were received.
The Committee held 15 public hearings in Canberra, Adelaide, Sydney, Armidale and Brisbane. Due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, a final public hearing was held via video conference with predominantly Melbourne-based witnesses. A series of site visits was also undertaken. These site visits were designed to showcase the breadth of organisations and institutions that comprise the Australian space industry and enable the Committee to see first-hand the manufacture and application of space related technologies in different environments.
Transcripts for all public hearings can be found on the Committee’s website, and details of the public hearings and site visits are listed in Appendices B and C.

Recent space industry reports

A number of reviews and inquiries have been undertaken into the Australian space industry. Key reports include:
Lost in Space? Setting a new direction for Australia's space science and industry sector, Senate Standing Committee on Economics (November 2008)
Analysis Report: Public Submissions into the Australian Government's Review of the Space Activities Act 1998, Professor Steven Freeland (August 2016)
Review of Australia's Space Industry Capability: Report from the Expert Reference Group, Dr Megan Clark AC, Chair (March 2018); and
Space Activities Amendment (Launches and Returns) Bill 2018 [Provisions], Senate Economics Legislation Committee (August 2018).
The Adelaide Law School contends that while the focus of space industry reports over the last three decades has varied, the submissions and recommendations are generally consistent; ‘there is a need to provide support to the space industry to foster its development and remove barriers to entry for new businesses.’12 This includes:
reductions in operating costs and unnecessary regulatory burdens;
support to overcome barriers to entering markets (both domestic and international); and
clarity and certainty with respect to operating conditions.13
Similar issues were raised in this inquiry.

Outline of report

This report is structured into seven chapters, including this introduction:
Chapter two provides an overview of the Australian space industry, and highlights some areas of reform identified by stakeholders including overall investment, national coordination, establishing national missions, and aligning civil and defence priorities.
Chapter three discusses key areas related to growing Australia’s space sector such as developing sovereign capability, leveraging Australia’s strengths, supporting start-ups, and adjacent and spill-over sectors.
Chapters four and five focus on access to space. This includes the Australian launch sector, current challenges to its growth, and the broader space environment. It discusses how space is regulated, the growing problem of space debris, and Australia’s ability to access and defend space assets.
Chapter six highlights the importance of space science as the foundation of the space industry, and examines the path from research and development (R&D) to commercialisation.
Chapter seven concludes the report with a discussion of how to create a future workforce that will support the evolving space industry.
Various case studies are featured throughout the report. These case studies highlight people currently working in the sector, education and training programs, community involvement, and remarkable innovation. It is hoped that these stories will inspire people to become more engaged in the space industry and its related areas.


The Committee would like to thank everyone who provided written submissions, attended public hearings, and hosted the Committee on site visits. The Committee was impressed by the commitment and enthusiasm of those making a concerted effort to build a globally competitive and sustainable Australian space industry.

  • 1
    K Dougherty, Australia in Space: A History of a Nation’s Involvement, Space Industry Association of Australia (SIAA), 2017, p. 135.
  • 2
    K Dougherty, Australia in Space: A History of a Nation’s Involvement, SIAA, 2017, p. 135.
  • 3
    K Dougherty, Australia in Space: A History of a Nation’s Involvement, SIAA, 2017, pp. 136-137.
  • 4
    Australian Space Agency (ASA), Submission 55, p. 4.
  • 5
    Gilmour Space Technologies, Submission 59, p. 1.
  • 6
    Boeing Australia, Submission 80, p. 1.
  • 7
    AlphaBeta Australia, ‘The Economic Contribution of Australia’s Space Sector in 2018-19’, report prepared for the ASA, February 2021, p. 7.
  • 8
    AlphaBeta Australia, ‘The Economic Contribution of Australia’s Space Sector in 2018-19’, report prepared for the ASA, February 2021, p. 7.
  • 9
    Surveying and Spatial Sciences Institute (SSSI) and the Spatial Industries Business Association (SIBA) | Geospatial Information Technology Association (GITA), Submission 34, p. 4.
  • 10
    Virgin Orbit, Submission 33, p. 1.
  • 11
    ASA, ‘Advancing Space: Australian Civil Space Strategy 2019-2028’, April 2019, p. 3.
    <publications.industry.gov.au/publications/advancing-space-australian-civil-space-strategy-2019-2028.pdf>, accessed 8 June 2021.
  • 12
    The Adelaide Law School (University of Adelaide), Submission 16, p. [3].
  • 13
    The Adelaide Law School (University of Adelaide), Submission 16, p. [3].

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