THE UK, AUSTRALIA, ITALY, (AND CHINA) AND SPACE…August 29, 2019
There's a strange article out of Australia that a regular reader, J.D., shared, and it has my mind working at the end of the high octane speculation twig. The story concerns Australia and its space program. Normally, most people don't think of Australia as a country with much of an interest in space, nor infrastructure to sustain a large space program. We'll get back to that point in a moment, but just for the record, Australia, like most of the Allied countries in World War Two, made off with some Nazi technological loot in the form of a few V-2 rockets. So the interest has always been there. In the period after the war, Australia was the place chosen by Great Britain to test its independently developed a-bombs and later, h-bombs. More recently, there is quiet discussion in Australia about developing its own nuclear weapons, but that's another story for another time. The point of all this context is simply this: while the space infrastructure might be small, the talent pool is not, and things might be set for that small infrastructure to expand in coming years, and dramatically so. Again, we'll get back to that. Here's the story that J.D. caught and passed along:
What caught my eye in this article and set me off on my trek to the end of the high octane speculation twig, was this:
Australia's fledgling space agency has "actually been noticed" by the international community, according to Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
But questions remain over whether Australia can meets its goal of trebling jobs within the local space sector inside a decade.
Mr Morrison revealed the Australian Space Agency featured in talks with UK and Italian counterparts at the G7 meeting in France overnight.
He said he was "thrilled" and that there was a "keenness" from the United Kingdom and Italy to engage.
The Agency's goal is to add 20,000 jobs to the space sector (estimated to currently employ 10,000 people) by 2030. (Emphasis added)
This little bit of news - that the United Kingdom and Italy - expressed an interest in Australia's space agency during the recent G7 summit caught my eye, for those two countries are of course the two countries most at odds with
Berlin ...er... the European Union. Recent events in Italy might change that in the short term, as the leader of the M5s party has entered into negotiations with the Democratic party to form a new coalition with (you guessed it) recently retired prime minister Giuseppi Conte as the prime minister. In the long term, however, if there is a return to the policies of Berlin Brussels, that government, I suspect, will not be long for the world, even for an Italian government. Which leaves Italy once again with the problem of with whom to do business, and what kinds of business it wants to do. Space is a natural choice, and if Italy does leave the EU, or modifies its commitments to it, its participation in the European Space Agency my be modified. In other words, in or out of the EU, Italy needs to not put all of its space eggs in one basket. Enter Australia.
Then there's the United Kingdom, and the new Johnson Government. As I will review in the News and Views from the Nefarium, Mr. Johnson has requested that the Crown suspend parliament in order to prevent any last minute law-making which would prevent a hard Brexit on October 31st. This the Queen has done. Mr. Johnson has reiterated his commitment to move forward with Brexit and demonstrated it by his request (though, as I shall mention in my News and Views, I suspect there might be some factors in play that run a bit counter to the public narrative). A hard Brexit would mean the departure of Great Britain from the European Space Agency, and for the British aerospace industry, a replacement has to be found. Prior to the Brexit referendum, I predicted that if indeed British voters approved a Brexit, that the response would be to revivify the Commonwealth in the form of a trading (and cultural) bloc, and this appears to be what might be behind these talks. So herewith a small prediction: look for Australia to beef up its space program - and especially its satellite launching capability - with bi-lateral trade and technology deals, and particularly with Britain. Italy, I suspect, will come along eventually.
Hovering in the background here, of course, is China, and from the geopolitical point of view, Australia needs that expansion of its own independent space capability, which such agreements could provide. If and when Trudeau's government falls in Canada, watch for some interesting meetings on space matters to take place between the big three of the Commonwealth: the U.K., Australia, and Canada.
See you on the flip side...