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Australia to get its own space agency, government says

Australia says it wants to tap into an annual market worth some 280 billion euros, which is growing at 10 percent per year. Officials have hinted that the new space agency could be based close to the city of Adelaide.

Australian space telescope

Five decades after Australia became only the third country to launch its own satellite, the government on Monday announced it was setting up its own space agency.

The announcement, made by South Australia Senator Simon Birmingham, coincided with the week-long space conference in the southern city of Adelaide attended by top scientists and space experts.

"The global space industry is growing rapidly and it's crucial that Australia is part of this growth," acting science minister Michaelia Cash said in statement.

"A national space agency will ensure we have a strategic long-term plan that supports the development and application of space technologies and grows our domestic space industry."

Left behind

Australia was one of the last developed countries without a national space agency.

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Its own space sector currently focuses on satellite manufacturing, support ground equipment manufacturing and the launch industry.    

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The global space industry's revenue is more than 280 billion euros ($334.6 billion) annually, according to the Australian government, and the sector had grown by about 10 per cent each year since the late 1990s.

Huge growth predicted

The Australian space sector currently generates up to 2.8 billion euros in annual revenues and employs up to 11,500 people, the website news.com.au cited Shadow Minister for Science Kim Carr as saying. The government believes the number of space sector workers could triple.

Although the Australian government hasn't suggested where the space agency could be based, Birmingham has publicly hinted that it could be set up in South Australia. He suggested the state, where Adelaide is located, was "poised to be a major part."

Thousands of the world's top scientists and space experts are attending the International Astronautical Congress in Adelaide, which runs until Friday. SpaceX chief Elon Musk and defense giant Lockheed Martin are set to give updates on plans to reach Mars.

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mm/se (AFP, dpa)

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