Space, a uniquely Australian opportunity

| January 12, 2018

Martin Duursma, a partner at Main Sequence Ventures (The CSIRO Innovation Fund) suggests that 2018 will be the year that the Australian space ecosystem kicks into high gear.

Since taking on a role as one of the Partners at Main Sequence Ventures (The CSIRO Innovation Fund) I have had the pleasure to become more exposed to the Australian space eco system. By this I mean the various activities in both research and industry of space related technological development. And from where I stand the view is looking rosy.

But first let me back track a bit, it may come as a surprise that Australia has a rich history of space related efforts, dating all the way back to the late 50’s and early 60’s where the Womera rocket range was used by both Britain and the US as a convenient place to launch and test experimental craft. It was in the 60’s that Australia launched its first Satellite, WRESAT and so we joined that small group of nations that had successfully launched satellites from their own soil.

The WRESAT launch is one of those inspirational stories involving Australian ingenuity and a can do effort. At the end of the US Redstone testing program there was an unused launch vehicle and it was decided to donate this to Australia. There then ensued a race to build a satellite payload in less that 12 months as the US based launch team were leaving Woomera. The WRESAT satellite was a joint collaboration between the then Weapons Research Establishment and The University of South Australia. The satellite successfully operated for 73 orbits.

So now let’s come back to 2018, what are the new space related “can do “attitude projects that we can take on in Australia? We are seeing the rise of new space related opportunities in the so called “Space 2.0” era. This era is the disruption of “Big Space” were previously you had to spend $150M and more to launch communications satellite you can now launch a CubeSat for less than $100K. The ability to launch new satellite platforms that are hosting new communications and sensor capabilities is opening new market opportunities. This is a similar phenomenon to when PC’s where disrupting the mainframe computing industry. At that time everyone thought that PC’s were too small to do useful work and that mainframes would continue to dominate the industry, less than 10 years later the PC’s were the workhorse of the industry. This rapid change was hastened when PC’s were networked together to form more powerful systems, I expect we will see similar developments in space with constellations of CubeSats communicating with each other to increase their capabilities.

Finally, to sum this all up, we have a great legacy of space related technology capabilities in Australia, this legacy has translated into current capabilities that exist in our Universities and in CSIRO that can be harnessed for the new emerging space 2.0 industry. At Main Sequence Ventures we are acting as a connector across the eco system, actively joining up our emerging space startups with existing capabilities in research. The goal being that we can turbocharge these early stage businesses with research IP as well as capabilities to accelerate their market position. The future is looking bright, 2018 will be the year that we kick the Australian space eco system into high gear.