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Space Transportation

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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  • Not enough (Score:5, Insightful)

    by QuantumG (50515) * <qg@biodome.org> on Thursday May 14, 2009 @12:00AM (#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 IntentionalStance (1197099) on Thursday May 14, 2009 @12:01AM (#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

  • Re:Be Serious (Score:3, Insightful)

    by QuantumG (50515) * <qg@biodome.org> on Thursday May 14, 2009 @12:14AM (#27947833) Homepage Journal

    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 @12:40AM (#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 Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 14, 2009 @12:46AM (#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:g'day mate (Score:5, Insightful)

    by magarity (164372) on Thursday May 14, 2009 @12:54AM (#27948001)

    what does an island nation, sitting well below the equator, need with a space program anyhow
     
    Allow me to rephrase the stupid troll's question: What all representative governments should ask before starting a new agency (and therefor cost center) is "what's in it for our taxpayers"? This is a completely valid question.
     
    The nation's geographic situation does not come in to this equation except in the question of launch costs. Oh, and when did the continent of Australia get downgraded to island status? I missed that one.

  • by Jacques Chester (151652) on Thursday May 14, 2009 @12:59AM (#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 Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 14, 2009 @01:00AM (#27948027)

    Really? The CSIRO also does "research only", and were the ones that developed all of the wireless technology the world now relies upon. If by "fail" you mean "world-changing technological success" then yes, I agree.

    (Of course, the corporate world tried to rip them off by not adhering to their side of the agreement with respect to patents, but that issue has been resolved in the CSIRO's favour.)

    No, we won't be launching any manned space expeditions any time soon. However, if the research is well-directed and the funds well utilised, we may yet develop some very useful technologies applicable to space science (presumably these technologies would also have spin-off uses for society at large).

    Furthermore, if this space agency does prove itself capable of producing said useful technologies, their funds will surely be boosted in the future.

    You can't go from zero to hero at the blink of an eyelid. Nobody is going to pony up $50 billion to give to a group of people who haven't proven they can do anything useful with it. That doesn't mean it should be cancelled. An initial small investment to test the waters and see how it develops is a useful strategy for developing an industry.

    Your all or nothing approach is ridiculous when applied to the field of research. If all research grants were at the mercy of people who thought like you, the abacus would still be the most powerful computer in the world.

  • why? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Slurpee (4012) on Thursday May 14, 2009 @01:01AM (#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:Be Serious (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Mr. Roadkill (731328) on Thursday May 14, 2009 @01:32AM (#27948151)

    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 that ARPA money around in the sixties, and the long-term good that came out of that.

  • Re:why? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by QuantumG (50515) * <qg@biodome.org> on Thursday May 14, 2009 @02:13AM (#27948289) Homepage Journal

    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 spacecraft."

  • Re:ANZAC? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by maglor_83 (856254) on Thursday May 14, 2009 @02:21AM (#27948313)

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

  • by auric_dude (610172) on Thursday May 14, 2009 @02:55AM (#27948445)
    Bruce Simpson with his home-made cruise missile? Looks like a contribution to me and judging from the fuss it caused http://www.interestingprojects.com/cruisemissile/ [interestingprojects.com] http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/3302763.stm [bbc.co.uk] http://news.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=04/07/09/1253201 [slashdot.org] http://hardware.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=03/12/09/205252 [slashdot.org] http://hardware.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=03/04/29/1857212 [slashdot.org]
  • by Blakey Rat (99501) on Thursday May 14, 2009 @11:34AM (#27952535)

    Notice how he had to leave New Zealand to accomplish that.

  • Re:why? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Cimexus (1355033) on Thursday May 14, 2009 @10:41PM (#27961369)

    Try: Indonesia. A few miles off our north coast. 300 million people compared to our 22 million. Overcrowded and politically not that stable (although by no means that bad either).

    Besides, physical proximity doesn't really matter in modern war. Potential threats to Australia are basically just the same potential threats as the US or any other country could face...

  • by ross.w (87751) <{rwonderley} {at} {gmail.com}> on Friday May 15, 2009 @12:48AM (#27962203) Journal

    Citation needed for your statistics. FDR is actually widely regarded as having fixed the depression in 1938 with his "New Deal". WHat had proplogned things up to that point was the Governments of the world sitting on their hands and doing nothing. Neville Chamberlain is on record as saying that it was just the economic cycle and his government was powerless to do anything.

    Of course then the war came, and what helps you fight a war? Deficit spending! No recession after that, everyone was busy cranking out weapons.

    After the war the post war reconstruction meant the boom continued for some time - because Governments were spending money.

    I'm not saying that a deficit budget is a sustainable position. It isn't. That is why the spending proposed is all one off stuff, designed to get money into the economy and boost demand.

    The other issue is the most of the current deficit is from the loss of revenue due to the global financial crisis. In order to maintain a surplus, the government would have to massively slash spending and cut jobs. Probably the last thing they should be doing in a recession when the Private sector is doing just that.

    The problem with the current crisis is that no one is lending money to anyone for fear they may go Chapter 11 tomorrow. That's what's causing the problem. Governments the world over are stepping in to fill the gap and provide money to keep things going.

    Australia is in a better position than most. Our projected deficit is about 4% of GDP (I think) and a lot less as a % of GDP then the USA, or the UK or Japan, none of whom had the benefit of a massive minerals boom beforehand.

    In fact the USA had a deficit before the financial crisis.

    The worst thing a government can do during a boom time is run a deficit. The worst thing they can do during a recession is run a surplus.

    Leaving markets to do their own thing and not regulating them is what got us into this mess. Alan Greenspan himself admitted as much in front of a senate committee and expressed shock at having been proved wrong.

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