| 23 April 2024, Tuesday |

Budget constraints force Australia to abandon billion-dollar space satellite programme

Australia has made the decision to cancel a billion-dollar space satellite program due to financial constraints and the need to reduce costs. The cancellation comes as the nation grapples with an economic downturn and the challenges posed by a high cost of living.
Talking to public broadcaster ABC on Friday, Australia’s Industry and Science Minister Ed Husic characterised the move as “making tough calls” and prioritising “broader environmental things” while fighting inflation.

Australia’s space satellite programme
The National Space Mission for Earth Observation, with a budget of AU $1.2 billion or USD $770 million, was introduced last year. At the time, it was hailed as a crucial component in the development of Australia’s space industry.

The primary objective of the program was to create, construct, and operate four satellites that were to be launched between 2028 and 2033, gathering vital data for Earth observation. This data was to play a crucial role in weather forecasting, disaster response, and environmental management.
However, the country’s centre-left government has decided to abandon the initiative as part of “budget repair”, resulting in Australia relying on Earth observation data from international partners.

The Industry and Science Minister explained that prioritising “broader environmental things” during a period of economic inflation necessitated difficult choices. He said that if funds were not cut from this program, they would need to be sourced elsewhere within the portfolio.

“If I don’t cut a billion there, I’ve got to find it somewhere else in the portfolio.”

“There are other ways we can build capability — we’re certainly interested in doing that. We just have to make the call on this,” he added.

Despite sluggish economic growth and a steady increase in defence expenditure, the government has committed to achieving a balanced budget this year.

Industry experts say the decision is “shortsighted”
While the cancellation of the billion-dollar satellite program reflects the government’s need to address financial challenges, critics assert that it may hinder progress in various sectors.

The decision to cancel the satellite program has been criticised by the Space Industry Association of Australia, which considers it a short-sighted move.
The association argues that this decision undermines the government’s agenda on climate change, defence, STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), advanced manufacturing, and the creation of tech jobs.

“It will undermine the Albanese government’s agenda on climate, defence, STEM, advanced manufacturing and building tech jobs,” said the lobby group for Australia’s space industry.

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