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Australia to establish a national space agency and develop satellite infrastructure

According to the Australian Budget 2018/19, the Australian Government will invest more than A$300 million to kick-start the country’s space industry and develop world-leading core satellite infrastructure.

Australia’s first national space agency

A$41 million is earmarked for the country to establish its first national space agency over the next 4 years. This funding includes A$15 million dedicated to partnering with international space agencies to enable Australian businesses to compete in the global space economy. The move will help Australian businesses capture opportunities in the global space industry which is estimated to worth US$345 billion a year.

Commencing its operation on 1 July 2018, the Australian Space Agency will have four core responsibilities: (1) support the development of Australia’s space industry so that it can compete effectively in the global space sector, (2) coordinate domestic activities in Australia’s space sector, (3) engage closely with key stakeholders, including state and territory governments, to identify opportunities to harness industry advantages and create a globally competitive space industry in Australia, and (4) facilitate international space engagement, both in policy and industry forums, to build the networks needed to develop Australia’s space capability and ensure our industry players can access global supply chains.

The agency will also administer legislative arrangements for Australian civil space activities, ensuring that these activities are in Australia’s national interests and align to the country’s international obligations in space.

Better GPS and satellite technology and infrastructure

In its drive for a smart economy that is anchored on science and technology, Australia will also support the development of global positioning system (GPS) and satellite technology and infrastructure, and research into artificial intelligence (AI) to create jobs and support Australian industry.

The Australian Government will invest over A$260 million to develop world-leading core satellite infrastructure and technologies, including better global positioning system (GPS), to significantly improve the accuracy and availability of satellite positioning across Australia.

“More accurate GPS will improve productivity by allowing new technology to be created and used across the economy. Growing Australia’s digital economy will also benefit developed sectors such as mining, transport, construction, aviation and agriculture,” Minister for Resources and Northern Australia Senator the Hon Matt Canavan said.

The investment includes a A$225 million to improve the accuracy of GPS in Australia. This will improve productivity by allowing business to create new technologies. Under the package, $160.9 million will deliver a Satellite-Based Augmentation System (SBAS) which is the technology underpinning GPS to improve the reliability and the accuracy of positioning data from five metres to 10 centimetres­­ across Australia and its maritime zone.

A $64 million investment in the National Positioning Infrastructure Capability (NPIC) will complement SBAS to improve GPS to an accuracy as precise as 3cm in areas of Australia with access to mobile coverage.

More accurate GPS can improve transport logistics, surveying, agriculture and marine navigation. For example, GPS technology can help logistics companies plan supply movements more efficiently, minimising the time vehicles are left idling between assignments.

Better GPS technology will also enable farmers to access precision agricultural technologies that allow them to more accurately sow seeds in between rows of harvested crops and manage the distribution of water, fertiliser and herbicides.

“Our investment in this world-standard technology will have direct benefits including virtual fencing for farms and better management of cattle and livestock over vast distances,” Minister Canavan said.

At the same time, the Government is also investing A$36.9 million to provide greater access to reliable, standardised satellite data that identify physical changes to the Australian environment. This will help Australian agricultural, mining and marine industries improve their efficiency, reduce waste and improve environmental management practices. The Bureau of Meteorology’s technology platform will be upgraded to ensure farmers can continue to receive the essential weather information they need.

A further $36.9 million is for Digital Earth Australia, a world-class technology that will give Australian businesses greater access to reliable, standardised satellite data that identifies physical changes to the Australian environment.

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