It’s an interesting discussion that’s emerging. I was discussing this with the head of a large prime and a departmental head of a foreign space agency recently re. Australia.
The larger aerospace primes (i.e. foreign businesses) are recognising that they’re invited only to invest for minimal return (since we don’t want to give up sovereign IP, which is understandable, but not enticing). Yet, we’re starting with essentially zero industry and supply chains, so they’re expected to fill the gaps in the meantime. But also, what gaps? Which supply chains? What projects should anyone focus on? It’s not clear right now what Australia wants to do in space (and I say this hoping that we decide to do more than focus on an Australian Canada arm!)
It’s not yet clear how the ASA would like our industry to grow. We need more strategy than simply saying we want to triple the size of the industry and grow 20k new jobs. It’s a start, but not a strategy.
Tripling the size of the $4b space industry has never sat well with me. If we break down that figure, around 80% is satellite TV (I can’t recall the actual figures right now, so these are rough until I look them up again). This means we’re not going from $4b to $12b, we’re going from $800m to $9.6b which is a much tougher task (assuming satellite TV also triples! Unlikely).
At the moment the agency is about to award $19m of funding through the International Space Investment Fund, but it’s unclear what the final scope will be or who the people on the decision panel will be, let alone how we’ll strategically allocate the capital wisely for supply chain and industry growth. If we have only a vision with no real informed strategy connecting the allocation of these funds to the 2030 goals, then are we prepared to allocate it at all?
Now, I recognise that there is a rough strategy in that there are pools we want to focus on (such as Space Situational Awareness), but it’s vague and not based off any significant analysis of the local and international space economy that I’ve seen.
I expect we’re going to have the same problem scaled up with the $150m coming for lunar and Martian missions within NASA’s supply chains.
So, I don’t think we even really know what Sovereign Capability means for us yet. Which is a worry, because it’s clear we’re seeing funding poured into this - which is great! - but we’re not being as strategic as we should be.