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Guest: Dr. Malcom Davis; Topics: Australian commercial space development, national policy and space security, space defense issues.
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We welcomed Dr. Malcolm Davis to the program for a riveting Australian space industry discussion for 64 minutes. Note that we had an unusual phone glitch during the program as we lost a word or two every couple of minutes during the program. I asked our guest about his possibly having call waiting or something else but we never got to the bottom of the issue. While the glitch was inconvenient, it did not interfere with understanding all of what our guest said and otherwise our phone line was quite good. In addition, you can get much more information about The Australian Strategic Policy Institute at https://www.aspi.org.au (note that their website is browser sensitive). To access their space information, visit https://www.aspi.org.au/search?d%5Bmin%5D=&d%5Bmax%5D=&sort_by=search_api_relevance&search_api_fulltext=space++.
We started our discussion with Dr. Davis providing us with a brief history of the Australian space effort and industry from the 1950-60 period to the changes in place today with a focus on commercial space. To better understand what Australia is doing in space today, what the purpose is of the Australian Space Agency, the push for Space 2.0 and the role Australia is and will be playing in national and global space security, do listen to the history overview presented by our guest.
Jumping forward to today, Dr. Davis talked about the two new launch sites being developed, one in the north of Australia and another in the south. He talked about the development and purpose of each site, the objectives, sounding rockets, smallsats, cubesats, and maybe in the future human spaceflight. Our guest also mentioned hypersonic R&D in the Queensland area.
We jumped forward again to the Australian part in Artemins, returning to the Moon and why going back to the Moon is so important, even in the context of helping us get to Mars. In fact, listen to what our guest said about plans to go to Mars but needing the Moon to help us get their in the most cost effective, safest, and timely way. Malcolm mentioned timelines for Artemis and the Moon, even a potential timeline for Mars.
There were no listener calls for this program but we did receive multiple listener emails. Jack in Portland, Oregon asked about Australia and planetary mission. Our guest was positive about that, especially with regards to the outer planets. Our guest also spoke to the importance of participating in multiple international space missions and project.
I asked our guest for the annual budget of the Australian Space Agency. Listen to what Malcolm said in response to my question. I'm quite sure you will be surprised which is why I am not putting the amount in the summary. How about some blog comments on this topic? I then asked Malcolm if commercial space investment funds were starting to show up in Australia as they were now doing in the U.S. The answer was yes but not to the degree we are seeing here.
We changed our focus to talk about national security space, Australia, China, Russia, the US and our new Space Force an d then a topic that was new to me by title, Military Civil Fusion. Concerning national security space, our guest had much to say with regards to responsive space, working with the US and other space powers, the Australian Defense Force Space Unit, the US Space Force and Australian plans in that direction now and in the future, plus the need to counter some of the Chinese and Russian space related strategies. You can check out several of the articles on this and related subjects written by our guest at the website(s) listed above. Note how he linked the importance of commercial space development with national security and the need for a coherent space strategy.
In further discussing space strategy and China, he talked about divisions on how to define and develop effective strategies. Do listen carefully to how he described Earth to LEO and LEO to GEO. Note the naval comparisons to brown water and blue water. Note the timelines for concerns for each regional area plus cislunar and the Moon as an additional zone of concern. Dr. Davis talked about these zones from the perspective of countering Chinese policies and programs now and in the future. This was a fascinating discussion which we have not before encountered in this way on The Space Show. Please post your comments about it on the blog.
Dr. Davis was asked about the New Zealand space program, RocketLab and competition with New Zealand. Don't miss what he said. I then mentioned the development of multiple national space agencies in many different countries, all with a commercial space focus. I asked our guest what he thought triggered this development going back five or six years. He talked about three turning points including SpaceX and Musk, Blue Origin and Bezos, technology with smallsats and cubesats plus rocket reusability, and regulatory reform. He mentioned the realization by many around the world of the vast commercial and related opportunities now available in space and those that understood that were getting in on the act. This was a great discussion, don't miss it.
Listener Carl asked our guest about the Chinese commercial space development. Our guest had much to say about this including the links and connections to the Chinese PLA. It is important to understand this as he said Chinese commercial space was not on a level playing field. This led to a very informative and new part of the discussion, Military Civil Fusion. For a quick summary, this is about Chinese PLA student reps getting advanced tech educations in the US and the throughout the west, reporting back to and working for the PLA and not registering as PLA representatives. He said we needed to wake up to this and find a way to deal with it as it is a threat to our security in many ways. Don't miss all of what he said about this. He pointed to a paper by an analyst on the space strategies website, Alex Joske, titled "Picking Flower-Making Honey: The Chinese military's collaboration with foreign universities." You can download the pdf for this paper at https://www.aspi.org.au/report/picking-flowers-making-honey. I urge you to do so and to read the paper which is long at about 30 pages. During the discussion, our guest pointed us to another author of another paper on the project which you might want to read as well. Check out the articles by Charlie Lyons Jones at https://www.aspistrategist.org.au/author/charlie-lyons-jones/. I will be working on getting either or both of these scholars on the show regarding this topic.
Before ending the program, we talked about aerospace education opportunities in Australia plus our guest provided us with an excellent summary of our discussion topics covered today.
Please post your comments/questions on our blog for this show. You can reach Dr. Davis through me or his website at www.aspi.org.au/bio/malcolm-davis.