South Australia has pitched the former Royal Adelaide Hospital as the best site to house the nation’s new space agency, with a commitment that the agency could be set up there within six months.
Premier Steven Marshall met with the director general of the newly formed Australian Space Agency, Megan Clark, in Adelaide on Friday, spruiking the former hospital as the best location for the new body.
The State Government plans to create a centre for innovation and entrepreneurship at the old hospital site, he said.
“We also believe that it would make a great centre for the national space agency which the Commonwealth Government is contemplating,” Mr Marshall said.
“From the South Australian Government’s perspective, we’re going to be as competitive and as compelling as we possibly can.
“We’ve had our initial meeting with Dr Clark. There’s plenty of work to be done to really strengthen the bid before we finally submit it.
“The national space agency as envisaged by the Commonwealth isn’t about sending someone to the moon or landing somebody on Mars, but it’s really about using new space technologies, satellites, to monitor and gather data so that we can improve lives and improve productivity.”
Dr Clark was in Adelaide as part of her national tour to determine the best structure for the space agency and speak at the Festival of Ideas.
Adelaide-based aeronautical engineer Matthew Tetlow is part of an emerging space industry in South Australia. (ABC News: Simon Royal)
South Australia’s new space start-ups
New space-focussed start-ups have been popping up in South Australia, with Adelaide-based internet of things nanosatellite company Myriota recently closing a $19.4 million series A funding round.
Earlier this year, start-up Fleet Space Technologies opened its mission control centre in Adelaide’s western suburbs, with plans to use its fleet of 100 satellites to connect new technologies across industries including agriculture and logistics.
The first of their satellites are due to launch this year.
Last year, University of Adelaide engineer Matthew Tetlow, who is also a director of Fleet, worked with students to build nanosatellites that were launched into space as part of an international research project.
Technology accelerator Techstars Adelaide is focussed on fostering space and defence start-ups, with the second round of the program due to begin in September.
Several Adelaide companies are working on technology that uses nanosatellites to transfer information. (Supplied: Fleet Space Technologies)
Strong national competition
The Federal Government committed $41 million to the creation of the space agency in the 2018-19 budget, with an initial $15 million in funding to kickstart investment announced in May.
While the agency officially began its operations from July 1, its final home will be determined after a bidding war between the states and territories, with a decision expected by the end of the year.
South Australia has already enlisted the help of former NASA astronaut Andy Thomas to spruik the state’s space industry credentials.
Dr Thomas has pointed to the state’s heritage, educational background, resources and infrastructure.
But South Australia is running against strong competition from other states, with the New South Wales Government also enlisting an astronaut to prove its credentials — Australia’s first astronaut Paul Scully-Power.
When the 73-year-old was appointed in May, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said she wanted to leverage Dr Scully-Power’s contacts with global leaders in the space industry to “attract investment opportunities” and develop new industries in the state.
NSW is home to more than 40 per cent of Australia’s space businesses, one in three of the nation’s space industry jobs and the Parkes telescope.
Meanwhile, Western Australia’s bid to host the national space agency has focussed on its physical location, which it says is ideal for “space situational awareness and networks that require global coverage of space assets”.
The state is home to the $1 billion Square Kilometre Array, the largest and most capable radio telescope ever constructed.
While Victoria is lacking in telescopes and astronauts, its campaign is focussed on the state’s ability to attract investment from big names in aerospace, including Lockheed Martin, Thales, Boeing and BAE Systems.