​Australian National University launches space innovation institute

A new innovation institute, InSpace, has launched out of the Australian National University (ANU), charged with combining technology, science, and law research to advance Australia’s space industry.

InSpace, according to ANU Vice Chancellor Professor Brian Schmidt, will look to expand the opportunities for Australia to expand its commercial and scientific interests in the space industry.

“The new institute will be the front door to space activities and capabilities across the university, including technology R&D, science missions, space test facilities, commercial space law, and business and finance initiatives relating to space,” Schmidt said.

“ANU has been Australia’s leading astronomy institute for decades, and we’re now looking to combine that scientific expertise with the work we’re doing in physics, computing, quantum mechanics, and law.”

It is expected the new initiative, led by Professor Anna Moore from ANU Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics, will serve as a bridge between academia and industry, and is designed to drive co-investment between industry and government partners in space-related projects.

“Like all challenges we’re facing now, the solution is never one-sided. That’s why we’ll be working with researchers from the ANU College of Law, research schools of mathematics, physics, earth sciences, computer sciences, and our colleagues in public policy and national security research areas,” Moore added.

Australia has had an official space agency for four months now, after the federal government announced during the 2018-19 Budget that it would be committing AU$41 million to the creation of the Australian Space Agency and AU$260 million to further develop satellite capabilities.

Under the guidance of former Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) boss Megan Clark, the agency has a mandate to triple the size of Australia’s domestic space industry up to AU$12 billion by 2030, generating 20,000 new Australian jobs, and getting more kids to take up STEM-focused careers.

According to CSIRO, Australia’s space industry is estimated to have generated revenues of AU$3-4 billion last year, with a workforce of around 10,000.

CSIRO Futures, which is the strategy advisory arm and a partner of Australia’s national science agency, recently produced a new roadmap helping to determine the direction the country’s space industry should take, highlighting that it isn’t just about putting people on the moon, rather the commercialisation of all things space.

The roadmap focuses on three main areas for potential development: Space-derived services, space object tracking, and space exploration and utilisation.

The Australian Space Agency last month signed a Memorandum of Understanding with France’s Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales, with both agencies joining forces to develop their space capabilities, particularly in the areas of operations, science, Earth observation, positioning systems, and communications.


The country’s peak research agency is nudging the newly stood up space agency in the direction of space technology R&D, rather than sending a man to the moon.

A six-month turf war over the Australian Space Agency has begun between the country’s state and territory governments.

At a time when Australia continues to cut money from the public service, particularly anything focused on science or education, a space agency proposal smells more like pork than rocket fuel.