Wednesday, January 12, 2011

More on Australia and Responsive Space

Robert Brand over at Echoes of Apollo has recently written a very thoughtful article in response to my recent post on Why Australia Should be involved in Responsive Space. He has commented below on my article, and you can find his article here -

Firstly, a big thank you to Robert - it is very flattering to hear your wonderful comments about my article and blog in general. I think the Australian Space industry is really kicking some goals at the moment, and I hope 2011 brings even more momentum.

I also welcome the opportunity to debate the future of the space industry in Oz – it is very important that we have as many inputs as we can to this process, and making the public aware of what we can achieve is probably the biggest battle we face.

On the topic of Responsive Space in general, and my article, I would like to add a few more thoughts on how it might relate a little more to Australia. As you point out, Responsive Space is still very reliant on Responsive launchers, which Australia does not have, and will not have in the near future. Whilst I (and I’m sure many Australians) would love to see an Australian launch facility, I don’t believe we will see one any time soon, nor is the investment justified at this point. In fact, launch is one of the main challenges for the US Responsive Space efforts too – for example, TacSat-1 was built back in 2003, on-budget (of around US$10 Million), and in under 12 months. Despite this achievement, it still hasn’t launched – 7 years after it was finished! (and somewhat defeating the purpose of building a satellite in 12 months, although it was more of a demo than anything else)

My article itself is referring more to the Satellite development side of things rather than launchers, and how it could relate to the actual building of indigenous Australian satellites. I see any satellites that we develop still being launched on foreign launchers for now. We do need our own telecoms, and earth observation satellites and I agree with your suggestion of a Land EO satellite. However I also don’t think we have the capability to build such satellites, and we would be better served to purchase them from major overseas satellite manufactures, and include some technology transfer provisions in the purchase. I think we may agree on that one.

I think Australian satellites that are within reach include Earth Observation satellites that are 200kg or less, and cost perhaps $50 Million or less. Small satellites, but addressing specific Australian problems that we face such as Floods, cyclones, drought, bushfires, maritime surveillance etc.

This lines up well with the Responsive Space Spacecraft – small, and low cost satellites that address specific needs, but more importantly, developing a local satellite in a few months to a year will help capture the Australian public's attention, and deliver a very immediate and real payback on any Australian space program, which could help sustain future investments. Partnering closely with the US in such an area would help us develop capability quickly, and give us access to cutting edge technologies in Space for a relatively low investment.

Perhaps it’s not the pure Responsive Space type activity that the US is doing, but I think it could be a good start.

1 comment:

  1. Pat and I at Echoes of Apollo are pleased to see such a positive response to my comments on your article. Thanks for this response too. I only recently diiscovered your site and was pleased to see such coonsidered opinion. I agree with all you are saying and will remain in close contact. I would like to print some of your stories in full on the EOA site with links back to the full story here if you give your permission. You can see how we handle contributing authors in recent posts.

    Although I am Australian (Robert Brand), Pat is from the US and the EOA website is a global resource of some depth. I however am always ready to give Australia a real plug or kick depending on the situation. Nothing is sacred.

    EOA does not just print the news (primarily links to the news), but we like to make the news too amd crreate opportunities. My recent update on EOA may interest you. There are opportunities here for Australian launches.

    Keep up the great work and I look forward to more informative viewpoints

    Robert Brand (EOA)