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November 24, 2020
Australian Space Forum to strengthen ties with Japan

The 10th Australian Space Forum will discuss how the Australian and Japanese space industries will work together in the future, and promote local space organisations and companies.

The 10th Australian Space Forum will be held completely online for the first time on Wednesday, November 25 from Adelaide, South Australia.

Nicola Sasanelli, SmartSat CRC’s director of outreach and communication, has been involved in the biannual event since its inception in 2016.

He said it was first established to promote the South Australian space ecosystem, and now promotes the Australian space ecosystem to the entire world.

The forum will encompass four main components, the first of which will discuss how the bilateral collaboration between the Australian and Japanese space industries could be improved.

Akira Kosaka, manager of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s (JAXA) international relations division, will be one of the speakers representing Japan’s industry at the forum. He was meant to attend in person, but will now be attending over the internet due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Kosaka was involved in developing the Memorandum of Cooperation (MOC) between JAXA and the Australian Space Agency (ASA), which was signed in July this year.

He said the MOC will create a good environment for the countries’ space industries to work together and will encourage the Japanese industry to consider exploring cooperation with its Australian counterpart more “aggressively”.

“Based on the MOC, we identified five potential fields for future cooperation, including space application, space technology, space education and outreach… space environment utilisation, and also space science and exploration,” Kosaka said.

He said the forum will discuss how Japan and Australia can develop a “concrete project” together based on the five fields of future cooperation.

Kosaka said JAXA is looking forward to “working with Australian friends in the space field”, and described the Australian space industry as “New Space” compared to Japan’s “traditional” industry.

While Japan has been active in the space industry since 1969, and founded JAXA in 2003, Australia’s space industry is relatively young, with ASA established in 2018.

Kosaka said this means the set-up of the respective countries’ space agencies are fundamentally different.

JAXA has in-house engineers and researchers, while Kosaka said ASA plays a more administrative role in setting regulations and allocating government funding.

ASA also acts as a bridge for international organisations such as JAXA to connect with space professionals within Australian organisations and universities.

“JAXA will first look to Australian Space Agency, and they can find the right person, the right engineer, the right researchers for JAXA to work with,” Kosaka said.

Kosaka plans to introduce JAXA’s future activities in addition to its ideas to help promote the Australian space industry at the upcoming forum.

“I believe that [the Australian] space industry will become one of the main players for the future of space exploration program by providing really advanced technology,” Kosaka said.

While the forum’s focus on the Australia-Japan relationship occurred due to the scheduled landing of Japan’s Hayabusa2 capsule in Australia next month, Sasanelli said Japan is an important partner for the Australian space sector, along with the USA and European countries.

“For many, many years, space was considered not a high priority for Australia… so for us, it’s very important to be involved with some international corporations because they present for us best practice,” said Sasanelli, who was last week appointed CEO of the Andy Thomas Space Foundation that aims to provide an interface between the space community and the wider Australian community.

The second portion of the forum will be the GRAVITY Challenge, which will involve industries such as agriculture, mining, and defence presenting industrial, social and environmental problems.

Over 300 space-tech innovation teams will then look into how space technology could solve these issues.

The third portion of the forum will focus on gaining investments for the Australian space industry from both national and international sources.

Sasanelli has seen the growth of Adelaide-based companies such as MyriotaInovor Technologies and Fleet Space from startups to companies with up to 50 employees, which he attributes in part to the venture capital they gained through previous space forums.

The forum will also look at research and development of space technology for the Australian Defence Force, mainly regarding communication. Future forums will consider research and development for other industries, including agriculture and mining.

Sasanelli said the 700 delegates who had registered for the physical event will now join the 300 who have signed up to attend online free of charge. He said there is no limit to online attendance, so registration is still open.

“The Australian Space Forum is an important asset for Australia…in the space sector to building space capabilities and expertise, and attracting interest from international partners to Australia,” Sasanelli said.

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