Project Description

Australia occupies an unusual place in the story of human activity in space. Australia’s approach to space has been and remains intensely pragmatic and collaborative, leading to outcomes that have puzzled many observers and commentators over the years. Principles of necessity and sufficiency have been dominant. Grand plans for space exploration and space industry development have failed to attract sustained interest or investment from any quarter, public or private.

This paper outlines the drivers for the situation that exists today, and suggests some possibilities for the future. There are four principal drivers for the approach of successive Australian governments to space:

  • Strategic Geography
  • Alliance Relationships
  • Broader International Obligations under the Outer Space Treaty
  • Cost and Risk.

The first three have been and remain enduring drivers. The fourth addresses a perception, strongly held by many Australian politicians and officials, that space investments entail high technical and financial risks for uncertain returns or for returns for which broader community benefit is difficult to quantify in terms of jobs and votes. Successive governments have reasoned that Australia’s essential national security interests with respect to space have been met through the extended deterrence offered by allies in return for their use of Australian soil to pursue their national interests. Ergo, substantial and sustained investment in a local space industry has simply not been a policy or investment priority. Above all, space has been dealt with by Australian governments as a strategic and national security question within the context of alliance relationships. Investments, activities and interests have been largely driven by this perspective, and much of what has occurred has been and remains highly classified, and thus well beyond the view of many politicians, public servants and the broader population.

Read more: Australia’s Place In Space Biddington

This paper was first published as part of International Cooperation for the Development of Space, published by the Aerospace Technology Working Group (ATWG) and included on this site through the courtesy of ATWG, ISU and the individual authors.For reference, we are also providing the front cover and table of contents.

Other extracts from this publication can be found here.