On Wednesday 13 June 2018, the Perth USAsia Centre in collaboration with Keio University launched its annual conference In The Zone. This year’s topic focuses on ‘the Zone Above’. Given the investment centre of space is shifting towards leading economies in the Indo-Pacific, we must think together about shared opportunities and risks around the zone above.
The launch of “The Zone Above: The Indo-Pacific Era in Space” was hosted at Keio University and featured a panel of Indo-Pacific regional experts. Australia’s Ambassador to Japan, Ambassador Richard Court AC, launched the event with a keynote discussion on Australia-Japan relations and its opportunities in the space domain. This was followed by keynote presentations and a panel discussion featuring:
- Ambassador Richard Court AC, Australia’s Ambassador to Japan
- Professor Gordon Flake – CEO, Perth USAsia Centre
- Professor Setsuko Aoki – Professor of Law, Keio University Law School
- Brett Biddington AM – Director, Space Environment Research Centre and Former Chair of the Space Industry Association of Australia
- Dr Hiroshi Yamakawa, President of JAXA
- Deidre Willmott, Non-Executive Director, Australia Post
Australia’s Space Agency
Australia’s Ambassador to Japan, Ambassador Richard Court AC, opened the event by launching the conference with a keynote address on Australia’s space cooperation with Japan. With the Australian Government recently announcing the establishment of an Australian Space Agency
, it is projected to see Australia’s space capability transforming into a globally respected industry. Australia’s space industry currently employs approximately 10,000 people and is a $3.9-billion-dollar industry, according to the government review
on Australia’s space industry capability.
Australia’s space industry currently employs approximately 10,000 people and is a $3.9-billion-dollar industry, according to the government review on Australia’s space industry capability.
Australia's Ambassador to Japan, Ambassador Richard Court AC, launching the In The Zone conference, 'The Zone Above: The Indo-Pacific Era in Space'.
The establishment of the Australian Space Agency will expand Australia’s role in the global space industry, while setting a national policy and strategy for the civil space sector, coordinating Australia’s domestic space sector activities and leading Australia’s growth and engagement in the global space industry market.
Western Australia as a regional hub for space collaboration
Ambassador Court highlighted Australia’s leadership in technology, particularly in remote asset management. Ambassador Court commended Rio Tinto’s Mine of the Future
program, having launched a decade ago. Today, the Rio Tinto Operations Centre near Perth airport controls all of Rio Tinto’s mines, ports and rail systems. The Centre also sends real-time information from sites back to base and supports the 80 autonomous trucks operating in Rio’s iron ore mines throughout Western Australia.
Ambassador Court stated that Japanese corporates, such as Komatsu, have been instrumental in supporting these kinds of remote asset developments and that Australia, particularly Western Australia, continues to play a key role in international collaboration in disruptive technology.
Ms Deidre Willmott drew upon this further by advocating WA’s potential to be a regional hub for space activities, highlighting innovative projects such as the Square Kilometre Array and Murchison Widefield Array
located throughout regional WA.
Australia as a model for rules-based space governance
When thinking about the new frontier of space, it is difficult not to think about the rules governing space and how it will be approached in the future. Professor Aoki highlighted the five UN existing treaties on outer space including the Outer Space Treaty (1967), Rescue and Return Agreement (1968), Liability Convention (1972), Registration Convention (1976) and the Moon Agreement (1984).
Professor Aoki highlighted the five UN existing treaties on outer space including the Outer Space Treaty (1967), Rescue and Return Agreement (1968), Liability Convention (1972), Registration Convention (1976) and the Moon Agreement (1984).
Professor Aoki proposed that Australia is a model country of the rules-based space activities. Her speech cited many reasons including:
- the recent announcement for the establishment of an Australian Space Agency
- Australia is a State party to all UN space treaties
- Australia is the eighth country that has enacted the national “Space Activities Act” in 1998
- Australia is one of the small number of countries which have launching sites for orbiting objects in its territory.
Australia-Japan cooperation in space
Ambassador Court described Australia and Japan’s bilateral relations as “one of the strongest, broadest ranging and most complementary bilateral relationships anywhere in the world”. Ambassador Court highlighted Japan’s support for Australia’s technology and scientific endeavours in space, particularly surrounding Japan’s Quasi Zenith Satellite System which improves the accuracy of GPS. This project has so far involved many
Australian organisations including Australia's Cooperative Research Centre for Spatial Information, RMIT University, University of New England, Hokkaido University, Hitachi Zosen, Hitachi Ltd, Yanmar, Rice Research Australia, SmartNet Australia, and Precision Agriculture.
From left to right: Professor L. Gordon Flake, CEO of the Perth USAsia Centre; Professor Setsuko Aoki, Professor of International Law at Keio University; Dr Hiroshi Yamakawa, President of Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency; Mr Brett Biddington AM, Director of the Institute for Regional Security and Ms Deidre Willmott, Director of the Perth USAsia Centre.
Professor Setsuko Aoki also discussed Australia and Japan’s shared history for collaboration in the space domain. In 2002, Australia’s first national satellite called the “FedSat” was launched by Japan. The launch of Japanese Asteroid Explorer Hayabusa (MUSES-C) was also notable, since it was launched in Japan in 2003 and later returned and landed in Woomera, Australia in 2010 after having completing its mission to collect a sample from an asteroid.