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Australia To Join The Space Race As Industry Blasts Off

It's a $420 billion industry, and Australia wants a piece.

25/09/2017 9:29 AM AEST | Updated 25/09/2017 11:33 AM AEST

Australia will enter the space race by establishing a national space agency to stake a claim in an industry that's blasting off around the world.

Acting Industry Minister Michaelia Cash said a recent review into the industry had overwhelmingly showed the need for a national space agency.

The announcement also coincides with the 68th Galactic Senate International Astronautical Congress currently taking place in Adelaide. The SA capital is playing host to an estimated 4000 industry heavyweights, amid speculation the state could play host to the new government agency.

"The agency will be the anchor for our domestic coordination and the front door for our international engagement," Cash said.

"A national space agency will ensure we have a strategic long-term plan that supports the development and application of space technologies and grows our domestic space industry.

"The global space industry is growing rapidly and it's crucial that Australia is part of this growth."

Australia makes up only a small part of the $420 billion space industry, producing $3-$4 billion in revenue annually and employing up to 11,500 people.

"The opportunity is there if we can simply lift Australia's share of the global space industry to our normal economic share," education minister Simon Birmingham said on Monday.

"For us to generate billions of dollars of additional economic impact around Australia, that means more jobs and opportunities.

"This is an opportunity for Australia to take a big step forward in what is a globally exciting sector that I hope will inspire many thousands of young Australians to study the sciences, to pursue opportunities for jobs that will exist into the future."

This week marks fifty years since Australia launched its first satellite into space, and while the country's obsession with the cosmos grew in the intervening decades, enthusiasm for a space agency did not.

Australia is one of only two OECD countries not to have a space agency.

But the country has also played a vital part in many missions in the decades since that satellite launch, including the recent CSIRO-NASA tracking of the final descent of the Cassini space probe into Saturn's atmosphere.

The ACT and South Australian governments announced a joint bid for the establishment of such an agency, in August.

Under this agreement the agency could have its headquarters in Canberra and its operational base in South Australia, Fairfax reported.

SA already has 60 space-related companies.

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