Space 2.0: building Australia’s strategy for space

This is the fourth in our series ‘Australia in Space’ leading up to ASPI’s Building Australia’s Strategy for Space conference in June.

Australia, and the world, is experiencing one of the most exciting revolutions of our time. The information age is evolving and we’re deep in the fourth industrial revolution, rapidly moving towards a society dominated by the internet of things (IoT) and artificial intelligence. This will be the most powerful revolution yet.

As we pivot towards a world where everything—from fridges to forests—will be connected to the internet, the dial will be shifted and our lives significantly affected. We’ll experience noticeable changes in the way we live, work and interact with each other. That will apply not only to individuals, but to businesses too.

The fourth digital revolution will no longer see individuals and businesses operating alongside devices. Instead they’ll be seamlessly and subtly integrated into our everyday lives. It’s here and it’s happening, but there’s a serious problem that we must address.

The world lacks the infrastructure to cope with the billions of devices that are set to dominate our lives. We need to build a better internet, one that fuses digital technologies. The first iteration of the digital age connected people. We now need an internet that connects not only people, but also things.

This is where the next wave in space industry comes in, one commonly referred to as Space 2.0. The first wave was very much dominated by government and authorities. The second will see the commercialisation of space, will be dominated by businesses and private companies, and will realise space’s potential to provide low-cost global connectivity.

This new era requires collaboration and partnership. No business, no matter how ambitious or determined, can do it alone.

In most cases, ‘commercialisation’ is linked to competition. But with space, collaboration and partnership is the only way forward. We mustn’t compete, but partner. Global connectivity is too big a job for any one business to handle alone. Engaging with corporate partners, educational institutes and industry leaders from day one is key for any organisation, commercial or otherwise, looking to be successful in the space industry.

A thriving space economy is starting to develop in Australia, and it’s about to accelerate. The federal budget this year will be the first ever that has a dedicated space budget, and that alone is a huge development. The money will go towards the Australian space agency, which in turn will attract overseas investment and talent, fuelling the local economy. Space 2.0 holds the potential to directly affect each and every Australian.

Space 2.0 isn’t just about commercialisation. It’s about future jobs, future skills and a new era of STEM education that will train the new employees that will staff space services. The Fleet Space Technologies mission control centre in Adelaide has already attracted some of the brightest minds in Australia, and the world. Having that talent on our own soil will sustain a healthy ecosystem of STEM expertise in Australia.

The past two years have seen a rapid advancement in the sophistication of Australia’s space operations. It’s therefore too easy to focus on the local effects that the Australian space agency and our commercial space industry have.

But we mustn’t forget the global potential. When we look globally, the effect is impossible to quantify. At Fleet Space Technologies, we’re trialling a precision agriculture project in Tasmania that could see farmers using nanosatellites to monitor irrigation levels via sensors on the ground.

Australia is a big country and the effect of precision farming in this country alone could be huge. But when you scale that effect globally, the opportunities to transform global industries—maritime, emergency services, agriculture, transport, logistics and environment—are extraordinary.

As we’ve seen with recent debates around technological advancements that were born in the digital age, their potential impact was only realised in hindsight. For some, the real awakening came almost a decade after the initial development of these new technologies.

I’d argue that when it comes to the next industrial revolution, businesses won’t have the privilege of hindsight if we don’t work rapidly to keep up with the growing presence of devices in our daily lives.

Without the infrastructure in place, businesses working with data will fail to keep up, and educational institutes will lack the expertise to train workers for current and future jobs. This isn’t a risk we can afford to take. For Australia to become a leader in IoT, we must have a space infrastructure to allow us to thrive.

Now is the time to put in place the societal and physical infrastructure to build the world of the future, one that is currently being driven by an exciting venture into space.