International space race

Space is beyond the laws of Earth and everyone wants to be a part of it. Some have been players for a long time, others are new to the game and some (including Australia) have yet to make a proper commitment.

CHINA: just launched a rocket and a prototype of a crew capsule, they have plans to have their own space station by early 2020s. FYI China are banned from ISS because they’ve been deemed a “national security risk” by the US.

INDIA: also launched their first space reusable space shuttle at the end of May to a huge success (on a $14 million budget, which is actually extremely small compared to other nation’s missions)!

RUSSIA: plans to use the newer parts of ISS, which is made up of different compartments, once it is retired in 2024 to build the ROS (Russian Orbital Station).

EUROPE/ESA: the first official ESA British astronaut (and second British astronaut) Tim Peake recently returned to Earth on 18 June 2016 after a 186-day mission. ESA also plans to build a space base between the Earth and the Moon!

US/NASA: Besides the Russians, Americans have long been involved in the space race. Elon Musk, billionaire and CEO of SpaceX continues to pave the way for reusable stage 1 rockets after 3 successful attempts as a way to make space missions cheaper and more sustainable. On 4 July 2016, NASA’s Juno spacecraft (on an almost 5-year journey) entered Jupiter’s orbit and will be able to pick up valuable information from the largest planet in our solar system!

NEW ZEALAND: announced at beginning of this month that it will establish a space agency.

AUSTRALIA: we continue be the only two of the 34 countries in the OECD not represented by a space agency — along with Iceland. Prof Andrew Dempster from NSW asks “Could we be last in space?” The Government recently concluded their review of the Space Activities Act 1998 and Space Activities Regulations 2001.

The study confirmed that Australian companies have the relevant capabilities and world class skills to participate in the rapidly growing global space economy; and that a number of Australian firms are already actively involved in international markets.

Some of their other key findings include:

  • Commercial space activities represent 76% of the global space economy
  • Commercialisation is driven by consumer market i.e. satellite broadband, navigation/positioning technologies like GPS-enabled apps
  • Australian firms have greatest capabilities in ground systems and related space-enabled services and applications
  • Space-related products and services are used in every sector of the Australian economy
  • Annual revenue from the Australian space industry sector is estimated at $3-$4 billion
  • Employment in the sector is estimated to be between 9,500 and 11,500 full-time equivalent

The 2016 report, A selective review of Australian space capbilities: growth opportunities in global supply chains and space enabled services, can be downloaded HERE.

There have been Australian astronauts such as Andy Thomas, vital role of the Parkes telescope for broadcasting the moon landing to the world in 1969 to even NASA’s Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex which supports the two-way radio contact with the Juno spacecraft as it orbits Jupiter!

Despite no formal space agency, as a nation, it’s without a doubt the tremendous contribution that Australia has made to space exploration. Let’s just hope we don’t get left behind in the race.

Originally published on Australia’s Science Channel: