20/02/2020

photo of premier stephen marshall opening the Australian Space Agency in Adelaide with the Prime Minister Scott Morison

The Australian Space Agency has taken up its new offices at Lot Fourteen and is on the lookout for smart people and industries to help it lift off.

Deputy head of the Australian Space Agency Anthony Murfett is a man on the go, but he now has a permanent home to co-ordinate his activities after the ASA moved into new offices at Adelaide’s Lot Fourteen late last year. Security issues surrounding the agency mean we can’t get a look at the new workspace but it will be one of the few places related to the ASA that is sequestered from the public. The ASA’s primary mission is to smooth the way for private companies to step up, triple the value of the space industry to $12 billion a year and create 20,000 jobs by 2030.

But a crucial part of achieving those goals will be taking Australians of all ages and walks of life along for the journey. A big part of that will be working with the National Science and Technology Centre, Questacon, to set up the Space Discovery Centre at Lot Fourteen to provide interactive STEM education and engagement for students. “(It’s) the inspire element. We want to engage with the community and the kids so they see space as a future opportunity,” Murfett says.

The Centre will also work in tandem with Australia’s Mission Control at Lot Fourteen, to provide a direct insight into the industry and inspiration for anyone willing to cross the threshold.

“Ultimately, the agency will want to use it to showcase what’s happening in space,” Murfett says. “The intention is to show the community what’s happening on the International Space Station and, as we go Moon to Mars, there is an ability to use this facility.

“We want to make it that you walk in and you go, ‘Yes, this is space, this is Australia’. We will also start working on how even those who don’t think they can participate in space – the manufacturers, the technicians who, for example, could be manufacturing O-rings or seals (for application) in space. It’s the broader story of how what we are doing on land, sea and air can now apply to space.”

Amid the work begun by Murfett and ASA head Dr Megan Clark, who will step down as planned in late June, are the next steps for Mission Control, where start-ups and small and medium-size enterprises can control, test and develop satellite technology. Design guidelines were released late last year and show how industry can apply for grant funding to establish the centre. Applications close in February. “Then we’ll assess the applications and we hope to announce around the middle of the year, and that will kick off the process for that successful organisation to get Mission Control up and running,” Murfett says.

Being a part of the US’s efforts to put the first woman and the next man on the Moon by 2024 and subsequent missions to Mars using the Moon as a base, will be a high-profile project for the agency and the Australian industries it hopes to inspire to take part.

“We have $150 million and that is actually about investing here in Australia for Australian businesses, researchers and their know-how to support NASA,” he says. “So our role is firstly, we want to open doors internationally ... that’s what we’ve done broadly with NASA.”

Agreements with other space agencies, including those from Ger- many, Italy and New Zealand, have also been won: “It allows us to talk to those countries and say Australia has skills in particular areas and we’ve got great businesses and researchers that can undertake that.

“The agencies are also going to be involved in Moon to Mars – it opens opportunities for us to collaborate in what is going to be a mission involving many countries going together.”

The ASA also has a letter of intent with the European Space Agency, and expats have already come back to Australia to work at the agency. Other job opportunities are opening up at the agency’s Lot Fourteen base with feelers out for people with a range of skills, including the technical knowledge to be able to know their antenna from their aperture. Murfett says that expertise is necessary “because we ... need to understand the opportunities we are seeing are real opportunities and ones we can support and invest in to help grow”.

Originally published on the Future Adelaide website: We have lift off.