Space, Satellite and Spatial Science


In general, this industry provides the ways and means to travel to, measure, analyse and guide humanity’s way through the solar system, the earth’s atmosphere, across and beneath the earth’s surface.

In particular, the space industry takes us into and beyond the earth’s atmosphere. The spatial industry makes sense of the data and signals shared through satellites, airborne and surface based technology.
The scale of activity ranges from venturing beyond our solar system to finding directions using your mobile phone.

How much is the global space and spatial industry worth?

The Space Report 20151 values global space activity in 2014 at US$330 Billion. While there is no similar report for Australia, two reports in recent years2,3, together lead to the estimate that the downstream benefit alone of space-derived data to the Australian economy is estimated to be worth AUD$12-18B enhanced GDP by 2020.

Space and spatial sciences are used by every Australian ANZSIC industry sector including agriculture, defence, insurance, cyber security, banking, timing and positioning services, resources, security, emergency services, broadcast and telecommunications.

Space-derived data and services such as satellite communications, earth observation images and position and navigation services have become essential elements of modern society.

APAC’s 2011 study on Australian space activities found that Australian organisations have capabilities across the broad spectrum of space activities that make up the Global Space Economy.

The greatest intensity of Australian capability is in Ground Systems and Space Enabled Services. These are two key areas of activity within global commercial space activity.

Based on our current success and capability, Australia has the capacity to play a larger role in the Global Space Economy.

Canberra, your ideal Australian launch pad to the global space industry

Since 1911, Australia’s capital has supported an unusually high concentration of talent, expertise, innovation and collaboration. Canberra’s contributions to the global advancement of space include transmission of signals and images of the first moon landing, exports of world-leading technologies for telescopes, deep space communication facilities, world-renowned astronomy programs at our higher education institutions, export of key technologies for transnational aerospace and astronomy projects backed by research successes including a Nobel Prize in astrophysics.

Canberra is the Australian operational base for several of the world’s biggest aerospace and defence companies. Federal Government regulators and policy makers are also headquartered here.

Why invest in Canberra?

On a per capita basis, Canberra is Australia’s most innovative and entrepreneurial city4.

Our extensive network of space and spatial related industry players based in Canberra provides you the best opportunity to make the right connections and collaborate. Canberra’s strengths include:

Space research, development and training expertise

Our universities include two of the most active in space related disciplines in Australia. Both ANU and UNSW Canberra conduct research and innovation development in: space engineering (including miniature satellite space mission skills and facilities), instrumentation, space physics, space propulsion, astronomy and astrophysics, earth science, remote sensing and geospatial applications, laser physics, optics and photonics, material science, space dynamics and control, systems engineering, and more.

Manufacturing and test facilities

The Federal Government and the ANU have invested heavily in spacecraft test facilities at the Advanced Instrumentation and Technology Centre. UNSW Canberra is currently investing $10M over 5 years in developing capability and capacity for regular in-orbit space research and technology development.

Industry presence

The world’s leading aerospace and defence companies are headquartered in Canberra including Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Airbus Defence & Space and Raytheon. In addition Boeing, Thales and BAE Systems have offices here. Several SMEs engaged in space-related work are also present in the ACT – Electro Optic Systems (EOS), Nova Systems (incorporating Auspace), Geospatial Intelligence, Geoplex, Locata, CEA Technologies, Australian Scientific Instruments, Quintessence Labs, and SHOAL Group.

Investment and export by space industry in Canberra

EOS has invested over $100 million in space research and operational infrastructure for space situation awareness [SSA] in the ACT. This investment has led to the ACT hosting the only non-US sensor to be qualified for SSA operations by the US, and exports of this space technology are rapidly increasing with significant flow of contract awards to local entities such as ANU. EOS has selected the ACT region for relocation of its US production of space equipment to Australia.

As an indication of capability and the market potential, the AITC at Mount Stromlo has supported in excess of $118 million worth of astronomy and space instrumentation projects, including $18 million in export contracts since 2006 and is waiting on the outcome of another $14 million export contract.

Space Environment collaborative research centre

EOS has also contributed $17 million towards the establishment of a Collaborative Research Centre (CRC) - the Space Environment Research Centre (SERC) at Mount Stromlo. SERC is developing technologies to address the global issue of collisions between space debris and an estimated $2 trillion of space-based infrastructure. SERC consolidates formerly independent research efforts on this issue. National and international partners include Electro Optic Space Systems, Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company (US), Optus Satellite Systems, Australian National University, RMIT University and National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (Japan).

Government support

Research facilities with key expertise include CSIRO (Land & Water, some Astronomy and Space Science, and the Canberra Deep Space Communications Complex (CDSCC)), Data61 (formerly NICTA), Geoscience Australia, National Computational Infrastructure (which supports a range of programs in space science, astronomy, climate science, Earth Observation and geophysics, and hosts the Geoscience Data Cube).

Space related infrastructure

Canberra has one of the three global Deep Space Network stations operated for NASA at the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex. State of the art spacecraft development and test facilities operate at ANU’s Advanced Instrumentation Technology Centre (AITC). UNSW Canberra operates the complementary spacecraft facilities, satellite operation ground station and space surveillance telescopes. National Computational Infrastructure offers the Southern Hemisphere’s most integrated supercomputing facility. Electro Optics Systems has invested significantly in their Laser Ranging Facility.

Business support

ACT Government has programs already encouraging and developing commercial activity in the space and allied ICT, defence and innovation sectors.

Among the programs is Australia’s first Innovation Network (including programs such as Entry 29, Griffin Accelerator, KILN incubator, Youth Business Connect, SME Growth Program), and access to local venture capital (Australian Capital Ventures Limited, Capital Angels, ANU Connect Ventures).

ACT Government’s commitment to growing the space sector

The ACT Government recognises that this is an important national industry for the development of the 21st Century economy. The ACT Government believes that with our business, infrastructure, innovation and research strengths Canberra is well placed to grow and sustain a viable future in the space and spatial industry sector.

Commitments include:

  • Ongoing identification and promotion of investment and trade opportunities within the space and spatial industry in Canberra. 
  • Driving Federal Government recognition of the significance and growth potential of the sector including the foundation of a Space Innovation Cluster. 

  • Improving coordination and development of sector-related policy across all levels of government.
  • Growing public, business and political awareness and commitment to the viability of the sector. 

  • Collaborating with all sector players to define strategic focus for growing the industry. 

  • Space industry capability directory.
  • Continuing to attract and support emerging technologies, entrepreneurs, and attracting more business to base their enterprise in Canberra. 

Our purpose at Invest Canberra is to support trade and investment awareness, opportunities and facilitation services to achieve greater economic share of the global space and spatial industry and to provide sustainable growth for businesses that choose to invest in Canberra.

How Invest Canberra can help you.

We offer impartial, free services to investors, exporters, contractors and buyers to facilitate trade and investment in Canberra and the region.

Contact us to learn more about opportunities in the space and spatial industry sectors. We can provide research, networking opportunities, introductions and guidance on establishing business or trade in Canberra.

A brief history of space. One of Canberra’s first frontiers.

Canberra has a long list of achievements in both Australian and international space and spatial industry milestones.

1911 - The first federal building constructed on the newly named site for the nation’s capital was a building to house the Oddie telescope on Mount Stromlo.

1924 – The Commonwealth Solar Observatory established on Mount Stromlo later to become the Commonwealth Observatory.

1946 – The Australian National University is established. The first PhD awarded was in astronomy!

1960s – NASA construction and operation of Honeysuckle Creek, Orroral Valley and Tidbinbilla tracking stations guide and support the first moon landing and other Apollo missions.

1987 – Australia’s first high-end computing infrastructure and services to support research established at ANU

2007 – Establishment of the National Computational Infrastructure and the Southern Hemisphere’s most highly integrated supercomputing and data facility based in Canberra

2009 – World’s first roll out of the fastest digital subscriber line DSL broadband technology commercially available to enable a fibre optic connected city.

2010 – CSIRO takes on operational management of the Deep Space Communication Complex providing mission critical support to Mars, Pluto and other deep space missions.

2011 – Nobel Prize in Physics jointly awarded to ANU astronomer and Vice-Chancellor Professor Brian Schmidt for work on the accelerating expansion of the universe.

2016 – Drive to establish a national Australian Space Innovation Cluster to grow the potential and yield of the industry in Australia.

Key space and spatial industry players based in Canberra

Advanced Instrumentation & Technology Centre ANU
UNSW Canberra Space Research
EOS Space Systems
CRC for Space Environment Research
Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex
Geoscience Australia
ANU Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics
Department of Defence
National Security Agencies
National Computational Infrastructure
Department of Industry, Innovation and Science
Spatial Industries Business Association
Surveying and Spatial Sciences Institute
Shoal Group
Geospatial Intelligence
Airbus Defence and Space
Lockheed Martin
Northrop Grumman


1 Space Foundation, The Space Report 2015,

2 ACIL Tasman, The economic value of earth observation from space - a review of the value to Australia of Earth observation from space, Prepared for Cooperative Research Centre for Spatial Information (CRC-SI) and Geoscience Australia, 2010

3 ACIL Allen Consulting, The value of augmented GNSS in Australia - an overview of the economic and social benefits of the use of augmented GNSS services in Australia, Prepared for Dept of Industry, Innovation, Climate Change, Science, Research & Tertiary Education, 2013 

4 Australian geography of innovative entrepreneurship, Office of the Chief Economist, Department of Industry, Australian Government, 2015