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Discussion – 


Geospatial community reacts to NSMEO program cut

News the government has cancelled the $1.2b National Space Mission for Earth Observation (NSMEO) program has been received with disappointment by the geospatial community.

The Geospatial Council of Australia says the reaction across Australia is understandable considering the drastic impact of what the government described as “budget repairs”.

NSMEO was established to launch four satellites between 2028 and 2033, providing Australia with independent access to critical global earth observation data. Industry and Science Minister Ed Husic confirmed the program would be cut but assured the geospatial sector the Government remained committed to industry growth and values the role the space sector plays.

Geospatial Council of Australia CEO Tony Wheeler said few people realise Australia has almost no remote sensing satellites of its own and relies on foreign owners to allow our nation to buy data.

“We have only a few communications satellites, some recently launched small satellites providing IoT data and a few experimental CubeSats from universities.  Australia owns no satellites that routinely provide the Earth Observation images or Position, Navigation and Timing (PNT) data,” Mr Wheeler said.

“For the foreseeable future, Australia will have to continue to rely on the goodwill of foreign owners to allow us to buy data from their satellites, a sovereign risk and critical vulnerability.”

He said while the Geospatial Council of Australia was disappointed with this potential setback to geospatial industries, it was optimistic about Australia’s ability to continue to pursue the development of the space and spatial sectors for the benefit of the nation.

The recently released extended version of the 2030 Space+Spatial Industry Growth Roadmap highlights the critical role the space and spatial sectors have in both driving growth in our key economic sectors, as well as planning and mitigating the effects of a changing climate on our natural and built environments, and our lives.

It outlines the steps required to realise an integrated space and spatial ecosystem through nine stated key objectives, associated actions and action champions. This is an important piece of work as it highlights that space and spatial technologies are an essential component of economic growth across nearly all sectors of the Australian economy and is important to lifting productivity.

Further investment and well-coordinated national policy will accelerate these benefits.  The Roadmap is the outcome of extensive consultation and it is now up to us all to play a role in its call to action and implementation.

“The Geospatial Council is committed to working with government at all levels to ensure Australia’s national interests, including space and geospatial industry sustainability, national economic growth, and productivity improvements remain a priority when it comes to access to space-derived geospatial information,” Mr Wheeler said.

The Geospatial Council represents Australia’s geospatial community providing space and spatial services underpinning the advancement of our economy in the digital world.

A globally competitive sovereign Australian space and spatial industries will give our nation the capability and capacity to:

  • Provide the nation with its critical sovereign space and spatial needs, including assured access to space and greater self-sufficiency in national defence.
  • Execute complex space projects in Australia, and make substantial technical, operational and management contributions to international missions
  • Provide global leadership in integrating the space and spatial domains and create market opportunities in adjacent and emerging disciplines. These include data-driven decision-making, artificial intelligence, precise positioning in real time, remote operations, artificial intelligence, machine learning, Spatial Digital Twins, optical communications and quantum technologies, amongst others
  • Increase productivity and capture a much larger share of the rapidly growing global space and spatial markets
  • Be a destination of choice for space and spatial specialists and companies and highly attractive for new space and spatial start-ups
  • Be recognised as a key provider of research, education and training in space and spatial sciences and technologies with a highly skilled workforce and that achieves the required critical mass for recognition and growth
  • Underpin critical supply and value chains across the whole Australian economy