To assess the concepts, technical feasibility, and economic benefits of National Space Missions as a mechanism to accelerate Australian sovereign space capability.
Since the creation of the Australian Space Agency (the Agency) in 2019, the Agency has stimulated growth in the Australian space sector through grant programs. The 2021 Parliamentary Inquiry into the Australian space industry recommended acceleration of the Australian space industry through additional procurement programs with government as an anchor customer. In 2022, the Government announced the National Space Mission for Earth Observation, a major government-led space program for Australia to design, procure and operate its own satellites for Earth observation. Following this, the Agency explored implementation of a series of National Space Missions (NSMs) to translate Australia’s National Civil Space Priority Areas into major technological and economic programs. The NSMs would be an exemplar of major civil space capability acquisition and operations to:
- foster a thriving and resilient Australian space ecosystem;
- address national priorities and complex challenges across government such as climate resilience, health, national security, robotics and automation, civil maritime safety, and mineral exploration;
- accelerate sovereign space industry growth;
- secure Australian access to international data, services and partnerships.
The Agency contracted UNSW Canberra Space, FrontierSI, and The Aerospace Corporation (US) to explore the scope and assess the technical and economic feasibility of three potential National Space Missions aligned to its Space Priority Areas. The intended audience is the Agency and/or other government agencies, and the resulting report will contribute as a discussion paper for the design and development of future Agency programs, while also generating understanding of space-based technologies for Australian challenges and buy-in from other Government departments.
Major partners: Australian Space Agency, UNSW Canberra Space, and The Aerospace Corporation. The project outcomes draw on contributions from many government stakeholders engaged during workshops.
The resulting work explored the scope and feasibility of National Space Missions along the themes of:
- National Resilience and Disaster Response
- National Security and Critical Infrastructure
- Exploration and Foundation Services
The partners led a series of government stakeholder engagement workshops to explore high-level government needs, challenges and policy priorities. Two, week-long workshops were run, the first focused on ideation of mission themes, and the second focused on cross-government needs. Input was gathered from (but not limited to): Home Affairs (Maritime), Critical Infrastructure and Cyber Security, Defence, Australian Federal Police, CSIRO, Australian Antarctic Division and others. The report presents an overview of technical advice, independent analysis and results from government-focused user needs workshops, comprising:
- Consolidated results of an exploration of government user needs to build a common understanding of space as an enabler and contributor of resilient technologies and critical infrastructure;
- Possible mission concepts and architectures for each NSM, programmatic and mission requirements, high-level Concept of Operations (CONOPS) for each mission architecture, and a Rough Order of Magnitude Cost;
- Analysis on how these NSMs might touch on multi-agency policies, including critical technologies in the national interest;
- High-level economic impact analysis of the mission concepts;
- Recommendations on how NSM architectures could be tranched over the next decade.
The Agency aims to grow the Australian space industry to help address a range of complex national challenges that either directly or indirectly benefit from manufacturing, operations, enablers and applications of space. National Space Missions could help address national challenges common across government agencies, including national security, geospatial intelligence and rapid response, technology and capability access, and strategic partnerships and governance. Impacts of the project include:
- Engagement from a wide range of agencies and teams to inform and understand the potential of technologies and services from space that can be integrated into existing or future solutions and processes;
- Spreading awareness of the Agency’s activities including development of technology roadmaps, initiatives for national and international partnership engagement, as well as capability development through its funding and/or procurement programs.
Recommendations were made to:
- Continue stakeholder engagement, training and education within government, to ensure both “non-space” and space-literate agencies have an understanding of common user needs that will benefit from NSMs and/or other mechanisms of capability acceleration.
- Undertake in-depth technical studies for critical capabilities and the enabling technologies – such as communications services and positioning, navigation and timing – that are common to all themes.
- Undertake a comprehensive impact analysis of each NSM including for:
- the economic value of space in non-space sectors;
- avoided costs from mitigating the impacts of natural disasters, threats to national security, or even risks of non-compliance of global space standards and best practices.
To learn more, contact FrontierSI at firstname.lastname@example.org or connect with Project Manager, Jia Lee, at email@example.com.