To orbit… and beyond?

South Australian Premier Steven Marshall today announced a $6.5 million partnership with the growing South Australian space industry to send a locally made small satellite into low Earth orbit in 2022.

Marshall says SA is the first Australian state government to embark on such an undertaking.

Dubbed the SASAT1 Space Services Mission, the satellite will gather information designed to assist and improve such things as emergency services, environment and water-quality monitoring, and mining and bushfire mitigation.

The mission will be led by the SmartSat Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) at the University of South Australia, with private SA space companies adding expertise. Adelaide-based Inovor Technologies will design, build and test the 6-unit Apogee satellite bus and deliver it to the launch contractor. Myriota will handle Internet of Things (IoT) space services.

“The SASAT1 Space Services Mission will deliver significant value to our state and to our local space industry as well as paving the way for growth in spacecraft export, IoT sensor exports, Department of Defence and Australian Government space and defence-related projects and the South Australian supply chain,” Marshall said.

“The satellite will also allow South Australian school students to view firsthand the vital information we gain from satellites right here in their own backyard. This is just one step in getting our next generation excited about what a career in space could mean for them.”

SmartSat CRC CEO Andy Koronios said the mission is evidence of South Australia’s commitment to space and to transforming SA into a hi-tech economy.

“This mission will provide opportunities for small start-up companies to use the ongoing data captured by the satellite to develop analytics applications for government and commercial use,” said Koronios. He said SmartSat is “incredibly excited” to be leading SASAT1 and that they are “committed to providing expertise and R&D capability to make the mission a great success”.

Inovor Technologies CEO Matthew Tetlow said he hoped that “the whole state will rally behind” the SASAT1 program. He said it would be “helping to build a space ecosystem that will support the creation of more high-tech careers into the future for young South Australians… [It] will create new jobs, boost supply chain investment and, hopefully, inspire the people of South Australia.”

Royal Institution of Australia lead scientist Alan Duffy, an astrophysicist and Australian space industry enthusiast, who isn’t involved in the mission, says  that it will see Australia taking steps towards being a leading player in the new space race.

The new space race, he says, “uses smaller, cheaper, but more advanced satellites to leapfrog the older, larger, and more expensive satellite technology seen in the more established space-faring nations. 

“Success with this mission will see South Australia, and indeed the nation as a whole, be much more attractive to international investment in a rapidly growing global space economy. That in turn will see jobs as well as new products and services created that benefit us all.”

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