Australia scraps billion-dollar satellite programme

Australia announced on Friday that it was canceling a billion-dollar plan to create a series of space satellites in order to cut costs amid an economic slump and a cost-of-living issue.

The Aus$1.2 billion (US$770 million) National Space Mission for Earth Observation was revealed just last year and has been lauded as a critical pillar in the development of an Australian space industry.

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The goal of the initiative was to design, manufacture, and operate four satellites that would be launched between 2028 and 2033 to collect Earth observation data.

The information assists authorities in forecasting weather, responding to natural disasters, and managing the environment.

But the country’s centre-left government said the plan will be scrapped for “budget repair” reasons, leaving Australia reliant on earth data from overseas partners.

Industry and Science Minister Ed Husic told public broadcaster ABC on Friday that prioritising “broader environmental things” while fighting inflation had meant “making tough calls”.

“If I don’t cut a billion there, I’ve got to find it somewhere else in the portfolio,” he said.

“There are other ways we can build capability — we’re certainly interested in doing that. We just have to make the call on this.”

Despite weak growth and a continuous increase in defense spending, Australia’s government has committed to balance the budget this year.

The cancellation of the satellite program was deemed “shortsighted” by the Space Industry Association of Australia.

“It will undermine the Albanese government’s agenda on climate, defense, STEM, advanced manufacturing, and creating tech jobs,” Australia’s space industry advocacy group stated.

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