How to propel Australia’s space race

The International Space Station - pictured here in 2010. Photo: NASA.

Flinders University researchers have devised an innovative way to measure “space power” which will help Australia realise its ambition to be a more prevalent and dynamic space agency.

Through analysing the power distribution, technical capacity and autonomy of different nations engaging in space programs, researchers will use a new framework to classify the status of various active and emerging ‘space-faring’ nations.

This project – which has obtained $147,000 from the Department of Defence Strategic Policy Grant Program – will comparatively measure Australia’s space power using an innovative analysis framework. It will identify how a country can increase its status as a Space Power and guide key players to best focus their attention and resources.

This has special interest for the Australian Defence Forces, as a 2016 Defence White Paper acknowledges outer space being relevant to ADF strategic policy priority interests and activities in the next 20 years.

The Flinders University research project aims to conduct a comparative assessment of various space programs by identifying, measuring and comparing their strengths and weaknesses, and this will enable Defence industries to understand how to strategically enhance Australia’s relative position as a Space Power.

Associate Professor Rodrigo Praino, from the College of Business, Government and Law at Flinders University.

“It will show Defence how to contribute to increase Australia’s relative international status as a major strategic actor in space, hence creating, projecting, and sustaining national power in a way that can shape Australia’s position and role in the world,” says project lead Associate Professor Rodrigo Praino.

Australia’s degree of autonomy in the emerging race for space will therefore determine its status as a possible Space Power.

Increasing investment by Australian public and private entities in space projects will constitute critical strategic infrastructure that will have a very large impact on Government’s and Defence’s future planning and role.

Associate Professor Praino also expects that the novel methods of creating this new index will attract international attention.

“The space power index resulting from this project will become an international point of reference for undertaking the comparative assessment of global space activities by government agencies, academia, and research institutes,” he says.

Associate Professor Praino joined Darin Lovett, from the South Australian Space Industry Centre, and Ruth Ambler, Executive Director, Cabinet Office, Department of the Premier and Cabinet, recently held a public talk entitled The Politics and Policy of Space at Flinders Victoria Square.

The SA Space Industry Centre aims to grow the local space industry, which includes about 80 space-related organisations. Increasingly, space-based assets such as satellites and ground-based space infrastructure are becoming essential to a country’s economy and strategic environment.

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College of Business, Government and Law