As the space sector becomes critical to Australia's economic growth and national security in the coming decades, Canberra has reached bi-partisan consensus in establishing Australia’s first space agency. The difficult question for policymakers is how the agency should further Australia’s interests in both economic and national security aspects of space, and what international partnerships it can forge to leverage global expertise.

A new report released today by the United States Studies Centre and written by Alliance 21 Fellow Anthony Wicht contains a number of policy recommendations to further Australia-US cooperation in space. It comes as the United States shows greater interest in allies becoming more space capable and Australia invests in building a national space agency.

Wicht, who undertook his fellowship in Washington, DC, co-authored Australia’s most recent space policy on satellite utilisation while in the Australian Government. He was also Australia’s representative to the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, where he led an expert group preparing ‘rules of the road’ for conduct in space.  

"To maximise the value from the US-Australia space relationship, Australia should ensure that its civil and national security space communities can work closely together, consider projects that will help build-out Australia’s domestic space industry and align where possible with US strategic goals," Wicht said.

"Working with US industry and the government-led space sector will assist Australia to strengthen its burgeoning civil and national security space sectors."

Key points

  • As more nations have invested in modernising their military forces and as access to sophisticated space capabilities has become cheaper, the spectre of accidental and deliberate conflict in space is rising. 
  • US dominance in space is under question. Australia can help to mitigate vulnerabilities by providing better space situational awareness, diversifying existing capabilities, and supporting diplomatic efforts to establish international agreements on safe and responsible space behaviour. 
  • Australia’s new space agency should consider establishing a competitive small satellite program using US launch capabilities, focusing on innovative small and medium enterprises. It should also aim to establish a joint innovation centre focused on space capabilities and industry. 

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