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An Australian Space Agency At Last? 189

Posted by samzenpus
from the up-and-down-under dept.
Dante_J writes "In the Australian Federal budget presented last night, as well as big national infrastructure spending, an amount of $48.6 million over four years was allocated for an 'Australian Space Science Program.' Normally a space program is managed by a space agency. Does this now mean that Australia will follow the recommendations of the Senate Space Science report and give up its rather inadequate title of the only top-20 GDP nation not to have one? With nations like Vietnam, Bangladesh and Bulgaria forming or maintaining space agencies, this government infrastructure is obviously not limited to G-20 nations. Discussions to combine Australian and New Zealand airspace have been undertaken; should that translate to aerospace too, and both nations form an ANZAC space agency together?"
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An Australian Space Agency At Last?

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    Have a habit of reannouncing existing spending, just with a new name.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 14, 2009 @01:46AM (#27947967)

      Unlike the Liberal government, which just pulls existing public spending, sells national assets to their crony mates, burns the cash on useless services and calls it "privatization".

      Hello Telstra sale. What did the public get for their money there? A short term tax cut. What did that tax cut cost us? A royal ass fucking from a now unleashed national monopoly.

      Thanks Howard, you bushy eyebrowed hobbit.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Divebus (860563)

        They can reuse that chunk of Skylab and save a little money.

      • by Fleeced (585092)

        Hello Telstra sale. What did the public get for their money there? A short term tax cut. What did that tax cut cost us? A royal ass fucking from a now unleashed national monopoly.

        Are you kidding? We'd still be using dial-up if the telceomms industry wasn't de-regulated - and I'm sorry, but you can't de-regulate without privatising. Their big mistake was not splitting Telstra up before they privatised... though in fairness they needed a high price for it in order to retire the public debt.

  • ASP (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Kangaroos in space!

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by MichaelSmith (789609)
      Not for 50 million bucks you won't.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by SlashWombat (1227578)
        Apparently, Australia was the third (fifth?) country in the world to successfully launch a satellite into orbit. While this is hard to believe, apparently the launch vehicle for wresat was donated by the USA. However, it only took about 1 year to achieve this feat.

        Now, can we actually achieve less, but have the remains fall on Canberra's parliament during a full sitting ... that would do us all a favour! (As like all politicians around the world, Aussie politicians really do have their collective snouts in
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by MichaelSmith (789609)
          Russian launch vehicles have to be rotated to the correct azimuth before launch. I believe the launch pads have welded in stops which prevent them being pointed at Moscow.

          There must be a reason for that...
    • by Joebert (946227)
      Kangaroos hell, imagine Crocodile Dundee at the ISS.
  • Not enough (Score:5, Insightful)

    by QuantumG (50515) * <qg@biodome.org> on Thursday May 14, 2009 @01:00AM (#27947757) Homepage Journal

    Funding of $40.0 million over four years will be available for the establishment of the Australian Space Research Program, which will support space research, innovation and skills development.

    Funding of $8.6 million over four years will help establish a Space Policy Unit in the Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research to coordinate Australia's national and international civil space activities, including partnerships with international space agencies.

    Umm.. yeah. $10 million a year, until the next government gets in and cancels it. That should, umm, do a lot!

    • by flyingsquid (813711) on Thursday May 14, 2009 @01:17AM (#27947845)
      The $10 million per year funds development of an advanced, lightweight carbon-fiber device, the Primitive Orbital UNit Cargo Holder, or POUCH. This device is attached to the side of US and Russian launch vehicles, and the Australians can then place tiny rockets and satellites in the POUCH to launch them into orbit. Launch vehicles are recovered using a novel mechanism. Giant steel springs are attached to the bottom of the launch vehicles; after reentering the atmosphere, the vehicles hit the ground, compressing the springs, and the energy is then dissipated as the vehicle bounces across the Australian outback using a hopping motion.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by kramulous (977841)

      Given that you're a UQ follower, I would have thought you'd be for giving the cash to the scramjet (Hypersonics) lab. Those guys can make little money go a very long way [spacenewsfeed.co.uk]. It would certainly be deserved.

      Such a shame the original dude had a stroke. His understudy shows promise though.

  • by IntentionalStance (1197099) on Thursday May 14, 2009 @01:01AM (#27947765)
    I live in NZ and was about to make a disparaging comment about his little nation but instead decided to do a bit of googling and found:
    • Bill Pickering was responsible for Explorer 1 - the first US satellite
    • NZ is participating in the Square Kilometer Array
    • and there's RocketLabs

    Just a quick google so I am sure there's lot's more

  • Yeah, but - (Score:5, Funny)

    by RevWaldo (1186281) * on Thursday May 14, 2009 @01:08AM (#27947803)
    How are they gonna fire them rockets right-side up?
  • Any practical space program from scratch will cost closer to $50B than $50M.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by QuantumG (50515) *

      Well, to be fair, they're not talking about launch capability, they're talking about satellite development..

      But $40 million over 4 years isn't enough to make one sat and have it launched.

    • Re:Be Serious (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Nyeerrmm (940927) on Thursday May 14, 2009 @01:40AM (#27947943)

      To put it in perspective, its enough to pay 100 peoples salaries/etc over the four year period. This assumes an average of $100k salary+benefits+overhead per employee, which seems if anything an underestimate for hiring people you'd want running a space program. Put another way, a non-ground-breaking, standard satellite like the ones used for broadcasting XM/Sirius radio in the US cost closer to $300M to build.

      Not to say you can't do quite a bit with a small amount of money if applied right... theres certainly some interesting work you could do with autonomy and constellations with microsats that you might be able to do in that cost, particularly if a lot of its contracted out to universities (students are cheap labor).

      Still, I find that number awfully low, and it sounds like simply playing politics... making a small thing sound more important than it is. Or maybe its additional funding on top of other things that are already going on.

      • by QuantumG (50515) *

        hehe, how do you figure? It's $10m/year.. not $40m/year.

        • by Nyeerrmm (940927)

          $100k/year/person * 100 people = $10M/year.

          Am I missing something? Over four years you have enough to pay those people for the same amount of time.

          • by QuantumG (50515) *

            You're missing that it's a government agency.. they'll spend more on the director's travel budget than all the other employee's combined.

            • by Nyeerrmm (940927)
              I also didn't mention anything on facilities, furniture, computers, paperwork, power, phone, internet, etc. I was just trying to give a sense of how small that amount of funding is.
              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by Mr. Roadkill (731328)

                I also didn't mention anything on facilities, furniture, computers, paperwork, power, phone, internet, etc. I was just trying to give a sense of how small that amount of funding is.

                That depends on how they're doing it. If they give money to universities that are already doing something in that area, desks and computers and paperwork and power and internet are already largely paid for and they can plough some of that money into getting the wacademics already there to research and build shiny toys. Plus, universities are sometimes quite good at making use of government money - look what happened at MIT and Stanford and various other places when Licklider and his successors splashed all

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Australia is heavily involved in a number of satellite remote sensing initiatives. There is currently a push on to get international coordination on satellite sensor specs. I think this is about getting Australia a seat at that table.

  • by JudgeSlash (823985) on Thursday May 14, 2009 @01:18AM (#27947851)
    In space, no-one can hear the dingo taking your baby...
  • by paulkoan (769542) on Thursday May 14, 2009 @01:31AM (#27947907) Homepage Journal

    Just enough to fund the committee that will take four years to discuss whether an Agency is necessary.

    • And travel for "research" purposes. Do you know that a lot of launch sites are close to good beaches?
  • ANZAC? (Score:5, Funny)

    by grim-one (1312413) on Thursday May 14, 2009 @01:56AM (#27948009)
    "form an ANZAC Space Agency together" So that'd be an Australia and New Zealand Army Corps Space Agency then?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by MichaelSmith (789609)

      "form an ANZAC Space Agency together" So that'd be an Australia and New Zealand Army Corps Space Agency then?

      Thats not going to end well [wikipedia.org] you know.

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by seyyah (986027)

        "form an ANZAC Space Agency together" So that'd be an Australia and New Zealand Army Corps Space Agency then?

        Thats not going to end well you know.

        Be extremely careful. You are about to subject us all to some teary-eyed Aussie reciting the line how it was all the fault of the British general who couldn't tell time and sent those brave ANZACs to their deaths in Simla Bay at 5 past ten instead of 10 past five. And he'll be humming the Walzing Mathilda all the while.

        None of us want this. So just lay off on how they bungled Gallipoli and we'll all be the better for it.

      • Re:ANZAC? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by maglor_83 (856254) on Thursday May 14, 2009 @03:21AM (#27948313)

        I dunno. Gallipoli ended excellently, it was everything else that didn't go well.

    • by POds (241854)

      Kinda makes you think of Star Wars doesn't it! :)

  • by Jacques Chester (151652) on Thursday May 14, 2009 @01:59AM (#27948023)

    I'm guessing "no".

    My understanding is that this is part of the Defence Whitepaper's plan for Australia to develop orbital remote sensing that doesn't rely on asking the USA very nicely if we could please have some photos.

    That much is pretty much safe from budget cuts in future. But everything else except pensions is now up for grabs. I know it's a recession blah blah blah but they just put in a $58 billion dollar deficit for this year alone, plus more to come. But it's OK, because Treasury predictions (which have NEVER been accurate) say that all the debt will all be paid off by unicorns and pixie dollars when GDP growth snaps up to 4.5% in a few years time.

    When, inevitably, that does not happen, everything that's not discussable on talkback radio (like space science) will get fucked. The CSIRO will scraping along on patent money in just a few years from now, you watch.

    • by QuantumG (50515) *

      The labor government understands that national debt is the new colonialism.

      Just look at the US.

  • why? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Slurpee (4012) on Thursday May 14, 2009 @02:01AM (#27948031) Homepage Journal

    I'm an Aussie. I love space.

    But really - I'm quite happy to let the USA (and other countries) spend the money on space. It needs to be done. It's good it's being done. But for the time being - I'm happy to sit and watch.

    Of course - if we think we can make this a commercially sound venture - go for your life.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by QuantumG (50515) *

      Glad you asked.

      http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1369/1 [thespacereview.com]

      "As the report says "The ADF's primary operational environment is a vast area. We need to have comprehensive situational awareness and an ability to operate within this environment with decisive military effect, if required." This means that Australia must have a fairly comprehensive set of space-based assets, not just communications and imaging satellites but eventually, at a minimum, GPS augmentation and electronic intelligence gathering spacecraf

  • ANZSA (Score:4, Interesting)

    by POds (241854) on Thursday May 14, 2009 @02:05AM (#27948041) Homepage Journal

    The Australian New Zealand Army Corp Space Agency?

    I'd prefer ANZSA - sounds like answer (in an aussie ascent)

    You ask it, they find it!

  • A Moment (Score:2, Funny)

    by dark grep (766587)
    That is going to buy a heck of a lot of Mentos and Diet Pepsi, even after you take out the International Expert consulting fee from the Mythbusters.
  • by golodh (893453) on Thursday May 14, 2009 @02:34AM (#27948157)
    An Australian Space Agency? So they are finally going to explore the Outback? About time too !
  • by ScottZ (14863) on Thursday May 14, 2009 @03:25AM (#27948323)

    As (possibly ;-) ) heard in a pub recently...

    "Look. Its not a foolproof plan but its still pretty bloody awesome. The pollies and their gready wanker mates have ruined the planet. Our country might cop it up the arse harder than any other poor bastard. So, we go with their grandiose bloody scheme and when it comes time for them to bugger off, we create a diversion, give 'em space suits with dodgy visors and pack 'em into a welded-up bus with lox flowing down the sides and pull the lever on a bloody big rubber band! Voosh! Hello Great Southern Bight!

    Then we can grab ours beers, our horses, dogs, sheep, cats and sheilas and piss off in the real one. Waddya reckon?..."

  • by DynaSoar (714234) on Thursday May 14, 2009 @03:26AM (#27948329) Journal

    The following is fairly negative, but is posed honestly, not as flamebait, troll or other such nonsense.

    It seems to be becoming a standard /. format to raise a topic, pose a question, and then proceed to discuss the issue and/or raise more questions as though the answer to the first was affirmative. The result is something that looks like it belongs in Ask Slashdot, and makes sense mostly if you read it while nodding vigorously. The real answers to the questions could often be found by doing some real research on the subject, but that doesn't happen as it would disrupt the chain of wishful thinking. The same could be said of locating information disproving the imaginary thesis, but that's even less likely to occur.

    Space science encompasses pretty much anything that goes on over that magical 100 km altitude, even studying things up there from down here as well as technology associated with such work. $10M/year could fund your traditionally fine radio telescope program. It could as easily apply to using that hardware to support a space based radio-location (ie. GPS) program or even satellite relayed telecommunications. $10M/year might be able to get stretched to develop a sounding rocket if you scrimped by using something like Indonesia's sugar based solid fuel motors. It could also get swallowed whole easily maintaining your existing launch sites and related infrastructure. $40M would cover the initial training of a shuttle mission specialist but not the technical training for a specific mission. Many space related projects could be funded by the budgeted amount, except a "space program", taken to mean something like an Aussie spam-in-a-can riding into the black in an Aussie capsule on top an Aussie booster -- a home grown manned space flight program. Ain't gonna happen for that amount. That amount over 4 years might be able to fund the development of an administration and engineering group capable of doing something like that at some later date for a much greater amount. Given such an organization, that amount/time frame could go to make good progress on the proposed Ausroc LCLV, but almost certainly not enough to finish it.

    Australia has a decent record of booster and payload/program development and execution without having burdened itself with a top heavy centralized administration. Sites have been operating quite well on an independent basis. For instance, Woomera has operated 15 pads and launched well over 500 missions in the past half century without a hint of need for an oversight agency. It's fairly inactive now but could wind back up if needed for the Ausroc or similar projects. Other sites have similar records, and the cumulative national record is impressive (see http://www.astronautix.com/country/ausralia.htm [astronautix.com] ). It ain't broke. Don't fix it. Have the sense not to replicate programs long since superseded elsewhere, such as early (ie. Mercury and Gemini) NASA, when one could obtain far more for the money via partnering with present day US or Russian programs. Sure, you could develop a manned program, or you could put that money to better use and get more out of it, as you have been all along.

    And please do your homework so you can jump past the leading questions rhetoric and approach it from a position that lends to more fruitful discussion. If the quoted figures are your actual budget, then it was discussed and voted on. That means your own representative politicritter was at least peripherally involved, and an inquiry in their direction could well provide much more solid information (or at least proposed intentions) than the referenced vagaries and attached hypotheticals.

    Finally, a piece of synchronicity. As I was writing this the following fortune/tagline was at the bottom of the page: "Mitchell's Law of Committees: Any simple problem can be made insoluble if enough meetings are held to discuss it."

    • by daveime (1253762)

      Can I say it, can I, can I ?

      You must be new here (aww damn, I just saw your ID).

      The real answers to the questions could often be found by doing some real research on the subject

      Hell, most ./ users have trouble RTFA, or even RTFS ... now we have to "research" something before we answer ? Unless you want even more wikipedia citations than usual, I'd retract your request for research.

      We're all terminal ADD sufferers here, and usually lose track of what ...

  • by stimpleton (732392) on Thursday May 14, 2009 @04:05AM (#27948495)
    Oh Lordy, i can imagine if the aussies find alien life first...

    "You call that a ruby dye laser? Now *this* is a ruby dye laser!"

    This is a knife! [youtube.com]
  • water? (Score:2, Funny)

    by Swoopy (101558)

    First order of business: how to harvest water ice from space?

  • Yesssss... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by benjfowler (239527) on Thursday May 14, 2009 @05:43AM (#27948919)

    I've never understood the bipartisan bad attitude towards investing in science and technology in Australia.

    Any funding of science and technology tends to be political in nature; take a look at some of the CRCs, which tend to either be politicians' pet projects, or freebies for somebody's support base. The CSIRO (the Australian equivalent of the Max Planck Institute or NSF, and one of the biggest of its kind on Earth), is really a huge giveaway to the primary and extractive industries.

    I think it's because Australian leaders don't understand the importance of science and technology. I also think it boils down to the traditional Australian distrust of all that is too 'clever'; we'd rather stick to growing things and digging shit out of the ground rather than value-add.

    The potential benefits of a military space program are obvious. When you realise that it takes six hours to cross Australian airspace by plane, you realize that that's a lot of ground to cover. Why there aren't half a dozen Australian-owned military birds already flying is a minor miracle of short-sightedness and stupidity. And it's extremely naive for Australian defence planners to always assume that the US won't screw us over when we need them the most.

    And a civil space programme would do wonders for building sorely-needed industrial capability, and interest in science and technology. It doesn't even have to be expensive: do what the Canadians do, pick a niche, and get really, really good at it. For instance, advanced life support systems, or something like that... we don't HAVE to have our own launch vehicles.

    I'm not holding my breath though.

    • by timbo234 (833667)

      It's always the same problem with anything science and tech related in Australia. Politicians, and maybe even the wider population in general, have no real interest in science, technology, startup companys, innovation etc. as it's far easier and simpler to just sell food and natural resources and buy everything we need from North America and Europe.

      Do they ever wonder why so many young Aussies live in Europe (or even the US) or why our trade deficit is always so huge, no matter how well the economy is going

      • Do they ever wonder why so many young Aussies live in Europe (or even the US)

        Amen, I'm one of these people -- I'm in London and have no plans to return to Australia. There simply isn't enough opportunity in Australia; people who want to work on interesting stuff either have to be very lucky, or just go elsewhere.

        I'm reminded of Andy Thomas, a mechanical engineer from Adelaide who wanted to serve as an astronaut. He ended up having to go to the States and naturalize to get his astronaut's wings. Having to renounce your own citizenship is a pretty big step; are policymakers in Canb

  • Just don't let them on the ISS. Give it a week and all their mates will turn up with their backpacks...
  • Tsk tsk tsk tsk tsk!
    What's that, Skippy, the space shuttle is in trouble?
    Tsk tsk tsk tsk tsk!
    Well what can we do, Skippy?
    Tsk tsk tsk tsk tsk!
    Start up our own Australian Space Agency? How much money do we have?, Skip?
    Tsk tsk tsk tsk tsk!
    Just over $10 million a year? Crikey mate, you ain't too smart for a bush kangaroo, are you, Skippy?

  • I've been told that most Australian students have just been taking up space in the classroom for a long time now.

    How does NZ expect to run a space program and remain a nuclear-free zone? Sorta limits your options for powering satellites, doesn't it?

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