Space Alert October 2018: Australian Space Agency Expands International Network

By Thomas Jones, Tom Macken


The Australian Space Agency (ASA) has taken a series of significant strides in its efforts to promote Australia's participation and engagement on civil space engagement initiatives at an international level.

This month, it signed MoUs with two additional partners, the UK Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency, and entered into a statement of intent with its first industry partner, Airbus.

Promoting ties with other key spacefaring nations

Since its creation in July, the ASA has been active in leading Australia's engagement with other international space agencies. The recent MoUs with the UK and Canadian space agencies follow the ASA's entry into a MoU with the French Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales in September this year.

The ASA is pursuing this element of its remit with particular zeal. This is not surprising, given its importance for an agency very much in its infancy. The exchange of information, technology, resources and personnel that these international partnerships will foster is critical in helping the ASA develop, and progress, its own space program and to assist industry players to take advantage of the opportunities presented by the rapidly expanding global space industry.

Under the terms of the most recent MoUs with the UK and Canadian space agencies, it is expected that increased collaboration between the three nations will deliver significant benefits in the areas of research, technology, space products and applications, space science and international governance.

It is hoped that the ASA's entry into the MoUs will also generate increased opportunities for domestic industry players to form new relationships with existing international industry players, and for the strengthening of existing relationships, such as those between the UK and the CSIRO, Airbus and its Australian partners (including in relation to the Zephyr solar-powered unmanned aircraft) and Canada and Geoscience Australia (who currently cooperate on earth observation activities).

Building ties with industry partners

The ASA has also become active in leading Australia's engagement with other industry players, including Airbus.

Airbus has long been involved in Australia's aeronautics and related industries, including, most recently, its choice to use Australia as the base for the first operations of its Zephyr and Skynet 5 platforms. Airbus formalised its support for the Australian space industry by entering into a statement of intent (SOI) with the ASA earlier this month.

Under the SOI, Airbus has agreed to provide support to the Australian space industry in a range of areas such as space discovery, the development of space technology and applications, and the provision of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics education in Australia.

The SOI also lays the groundwork for Airbus and the ASA to collaborate on opportunities for commercialisation at each stage of the 'space value-added chain', which spans from research and development to the provision of satellite operations and consumer services. Airbus will have much insight to offer the ASA in this regard.

The growth in the ASA's international network and footprint continues to be an exciting trend for those industry players in Australia looking to capitalise on the growth in the number and frequency of civil space sector activities.