Over the last few years Australia has signalled its renewed focus and ambitions in relation to civil space exploration and the use of outer space. This began in July 2018 with the founding of the Australian Space Agency, Australia’s national agency responsible for supporting the growth and transformation of Australia’s space industry.
More recently, on 13 December 2021, Australia signed an MoU with South Korea as a foundation to cooperate in space in areas including space exploration, earth observation, launch services and satellite navigation. South Korea noted Australia’s demand for earth observation to monitor and manage natural disasters and the country’s suitability for rocket launches. From Australia’s side, the areas of cooperation reflect priority areas identified in the Australian Civil Space Strategy 2019-2028. South Korea has, in recent years, increased its focus on space development and defence, launching its first homegrown rocket in October 2021.
This MoU represents a growing body of international partnerships that Australia has entered into in the space sector, including with the US, UK, NZ, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, and the UAE.
The recent MoU with South Korea comes soon after Australia’s signing of the AUKUS partnership with the UK and the US, in September 2021. Space cooperation is not an explicit element of AUKUS, but the existing partnerships between the three states governing space cooperation will be important in carrying out the pact. The space sector is a critical element of national security and the AUKUS deal sends a strong signal of allied defence hegemony in the Indo-Pacific region.
Australia’s signing of the MoU with South Korea and of the AUKUS partnership are elements of Australia’s more recent shift in strategic policy focus to operations in the Indo-Pacific region and, more specifically, its development in space capabilities for security in the region.
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