Our CEO Leanne Cunnold tells the the untold story of Australia’s new space race as part of her Opinion Editorial published in The West Australian.

By Leanne Cunnold, CEO AROSE

Space is quietly changing the face of nearly every industry – from mining and manufacturing to urban design and insurance. However, there is a much deeper space story going largely untold. 

 Anyone who follows the news knows there’s another global space race underway. Space tourism, despite some detractors, continues to raise awareness and build excitement for space exploration.

Everyone from insurers to urban planners are using satellite data and artificial intelligence to forecast risk and make critical decisions about the designs of our cities. We are bolstering our resilience to natural disasters with satellite systems that provide early warning of bushfires and floods.

The solar panels that power more than three million Australian households, helping to decarbonise our energy systems, were enhanced by NASA to move spacecraft over the vast distances they have to cover.¹

The use of precious resources like water is being enhanced by space-enriched artificial intelligence to optimise the efficient delivery of irrigation and drinking water while preserving the environment.

What is not widely understood is that Australia is already a producer and user of ‘downstream‘ space technologies.

We are among world leaders in the generation of data from internet of things and connected ecosystems to support multiple sectors in both rural and city regions. Australia is also a major user of satellite imagery, earth observation data, GPS and space-based precision positioning services to create better remote automation and communications capabilities across the Australian economy, including in mining, agriculture, construction, manufacturing and even healthcare.

Australia has world-leading skills and expertise in remote operations, robotics, and automation expertise thanks to innovations in our resources sector that make our mining operations safer and more efficient.

That’s why NASA has partnered with the Australian Government to deliver a semi-autonomous lunar rover for its inspirational return mission to the Moon, expected to launch in 2026.

AROSE, with the support of the Western Australian Government, is thrilled to be a participant in the Federal Government’s Trailblazer Stage 1 Tender, administered by the Australian Space Agency. This is part of its $150 million initiative to support Australian businesses and researchers join NASA’s return to the Moon and then on to Mars and beyond.

Trailblazer will harness the expertise of Australian companies to develop the semi-autonomous rover. The rover will collect lunar soil containing oxides from which NASA aims to extract oxygen. This is a key step towards establishing a sustainable human presence on the Moon and supporting future missions to Mars.

Our highly advanced minerals and resources sector has produced world-leading expertise in remote operations. AROSE partners Woodside and Rio Tinto are utilising remotely operated and autonomous vehicle technologies in complex and hazardous environments. These technologies can also be applied in space exploration, where uncrewed rovers have a significant role to play.

Missions such as the lunar rover help us to connect the different parts of our growing space ecosystem so Australia can offer a mature, full-scale, end-to-end sovereign capability in space technology and services.

Space is becoming increasingly important as a critical driver of Australian exports, job creation and economic competitiveness. According to the Australian Space Agency, the space sector will significantly outperform the broader Australian economy in the coming years. Australia aims to significantly grow its space industry from around 10,000 jobs and a market size of $3.9 billion to up to another 20,000 jobs and $12 billion by 2030.²

Through an enhanced local space industry, we can boost our advanced manufacturing sector and build resilient local supply chains that take full advantage of our status as a world-leading producer of critical minerals, as well as skills in data analytics and robotics.

This will help us further diversify our exports, so we are less reliant on commodities. We can also take what we learn in space exploration and apply it back here on earth in the way we produce energy, grow food, and innovate technology.

At a time of immense change, challenge, and uncertainty our nation can unite in this critical venture bringing industry, government, and universities into a single mission to enrich our nation’s future through space exploration.

AROSE members, from start-ups and research institutions to some of the largest companies on the ASX, have declared as one that we are ready for this journey.

Space holds the key to our future. Let’s work together to harness our future.

  1. https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/tdm/sep/index.html
  2. Advancing Space Australian Civil Space Strategy 2019-2028, Australian Space Agency, p.3. https://www.industry.gov.au/data-and-publications/australian-civil-space-strategy-2019-2028