Monday, May 17, 2010

Australian Space Science Programme Updates

There was a time when Australia stood proud as a pioneer of orbital spaceflight. The successful orbital flight of WRESAT made the country only the fourth - after the USSR, USA and France - to design and build a satellite for launch from its own territory.

Sadly for Australian spaceflight visionaries, WRESAT - named for its builder, the Australian Weapons Research Establishment - flew from the Woomera test range north-west of Adelaide aboard a modified American Redstone rocket in 1967. The mission successfully completed 642 polar orbits before burning up on re-entry, but remains the country's sole launch.

Since then, the country's involvement in space science and industry has "drifted and the sense of purpose has been lost", according to a 2008 Australian Senate report.

Now, the government hopes to join the space age with a more coherent vision. In early May the second round of the four-year, A$40 million ($36 million) Australian Space Research Programme (ASRP), part of a four-year, A$46.8 million Australian Space Science Programme, concluded. The programme also created a dedicated Space Policy Unit within the Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, to act as the central point of contact for the country's national and international civil space activities.

The Australian Space Science Programme is in turn part of a wider A$1.1 billion Super Science development initiative.


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