When people think of space, images of planets, rocks and astronauts come to mind.

We know space inspires, but space has also entered a commercial phase. Technology is smaller and cheaper and the cost to access space is dropping, meaning space is now just another place to operate like the land, sea and air.

The space sector is growing and transforming rapidly. The global space industry is currently worth US$350 billion and by 2040 is expected to be worth more than US$1.1 trillion. This forecasted growth is due to the rapidly evolving nature of space technology and the greater use of this technology – think the blue dot on our phones as we find our way each day, the use of images from space to track natural disasters, or low cost communications where mobile reception doesn’t exist.

Nationally, the average annualised forecast growth of the Australian civil space economy over the five years from 2015-20 is eight per cent, and is expected to grow at a rate of up to three times that of GDP over the decade to 2023-24. While these figures are pre-COVID, significant growth is still expected due to the increasing role that space technologies will play in our everyday lives.

The Australian Government’s aim of growing the space market segment from around 10,000 jobs and a market size of $3.9 billion up to another 20,000 jobs and $12 billion by 2030 has never been more important given the widespread economic impacts of the COVID-19 crisis.

The space industry is a key growth sector and enabler of other core industries, like manufacturing, which will form an important part of the Government’s economic recovery. The Moon to Mars initiative will be a signature part of this recovery for the space sector.

In late 2019 the Australian Government launched a new partnership on future space cooperation between the Australian Space Agency and NASA. This partnership consists of a $150 million investment in Australian businesses and researchers to join NASA’s inspirational plan to return to the Moon and travel on to Mars – our own Moon to Mars initiative. It’s an investment here in Australia to grow our industry and secure local supply chains.

The Moon to Mars initiative is a five-year program that will support the transformation of industries across the economy and accelerate the growth of the space sector through three integrated grant programs: Supply Chain, Demonstrator and Trailblazer. The Supply Chain program focuses on lifting the capabilities of Australian businesses, while the Demonstrator program will showcase to the world the technology that can support NASA’s ambitions to travel to the Moon. The Trailblazer is our inspiration piece – a major Australian project supporting NASA’s activities related to their return to the Moon and on to Mars that all Australians can be proud of when they look up at the night sky.

Opening in the coming months, the Supply Chain program aims to grow the number of Australian companies in the global space supply chains and international future markets, as well as establish sustainable pathways for Australian companies to enter international supply chains. The program can also be used to back companies looking to diversify into the space sector by, for example, supporting companies to develop the quality standards required for products to be commercialised and used in space.

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of building on our sovereign strengths to secure local supply chains and encourage economic resilience. The Moon to Mars initiative provides the opportunity to leverage our existing strengths in next generation communications, remote operations with Artificial Intelligence, and space medicine to secure a bigger share of the global space market and show the world we are open for business.

There are also opportunities for existing small and medium companies that have the capability to ‘spin in’ to space activities and make a valuable contribution to the development of an international space industry value chain. Aussie companies making machined components and gears and creating silicon seals and gaskets are examples where their services can suit multiple markets, including the space market. As are resources and mining companies using robotics and satellite communications to service remote and extreme environments, which are excellent testing grounds for technology that has applications in space.

Supporting the transfer of these capabilities into the space sector will take some effort, but we have a strong foundation from which to build. It is why we’ve designed the Supply Chain component of the Moon to Mars initiative to focus on capability development – so our companies can contribute to the rapidly growing space sector.

With the opening of the Supply Chain program just around the corner, I encourage you to talk to us at the Australian Space Agency to see how the Moon to Mars initiative can help your business grow, transform and contribute to building a future space workforce.

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