50 years since the Apollo 11 Landing, 1 year since KPMG launched into Space

In this July 20, 1969 photo made available by NASA, Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin works on a solar wind experiment device on the surface of the moon. (Neil Armstrong/NASA via AP)

Remember what you were doing the day Apollo 11 landed on the Moon?  As it happens most of us don’t.  Today’s workforce was almost entirely either not born, or were so young their memories are more likely to be of playing in the yard that day.

So why is it so many of our younger colleagues are fascinated by space?

With NASA going back to the moon, and then Mars next decade, perhaps space is again becoming the rallying cry for today’s generation of employees – your employees – as it was 50 years ago.

To test that idea at KPMG, we launched a Space Practice 12 months ago.  Frankly, we didn’t know what to expect.  Like many in the market we saw the Australian Space Agency announcement as a beacon.  It was a formal national commitment for Australia to re-enter space.  In response to that challenge we asked ‘who is up for the challenge?’ we received an astonishing reply.

Over 150 people in the Australian firm joined our client service team, ranging from those with interest in the sector to people with experience controlling the International Space Station, designing and manufacturing satellites and space law SMEs. This provided a forum to host external presenters from industry, academia and downstream beneficiaries of the sector, discussing their aspirations and the challenges being faced.

At the same time the Australian Space Agency has set an ambitious agenda for our nation, which they are well on their way to delivering. The new Civil Space Strategy for the agency has sent a strong message to industry on the focus areas of the agency and how they can support.

Our international presence has been significantly strengthened through the signing of MoUs and Statements of Strategic Intent being signed by the world’s leading space agencies and aerospace primes. At the same time the leaders of the agency are often at the forefront of international space industry debate at forums including the Space Symposium, IAC and UN COPUOS. The response from the commercial sector has been resounding with many growing their space operations onshore and others looking to set up shop in Australia.

But the space business is not only about travel to Mars or landing on the moon again.

Defence are investing significantly in their domestic space capability. A number of programmes are planned over the coming decade to grow Australia’s capabilities in satellite imagery, Space Situational Awareness (SSA), position navigation and timing and communications. These programmes will reduce our reliance on some international services and are already underway, with as much as $12b earmarked in investment. With space becoming increasingly congested, we need to continue working with our partners and allies to ensure security of our space assets and the services we rely on them for.

Start-ups such as Gilmour, Myriota and Fleet are now internationally recognised brands attracting significant local and international investment. At the same time advanced research is being conducted into areas such as on-orbit manufacturing and assembly through a Boeing and CSIRO partnership and smart satellites, through the creation of the new CRC.

Other sectors are also engaging in the Space Industry to share technology developments and services available. Rio Tinto has partnered with NASA to leverage their digital twin technology, Woodside and the Australian Space Agency are also pursuing technology transfer, while the agriculture industry is benefiting from rapidly advancing Earth Observation and Communication capabilities enabled by small satellites.

For Australia to achieve the ambitious target of tripling the space industry in the coming decade, diligence will be required to ensure sustainable growth. Emerging space companies require investment and mentoring from global sector leaders, infrastructure is required for a full manufacturing to launch supply chain to be effective and economical and the nascent opportunity of Australia’s traditional industries being applied to the space sector (across resources, agriculture and medicine) are yet to be fully explored.

Space is a small story for the Australian economy today, but we’ve discovered it’s a big story for our people, and an exciting sector for our business.  On the 50th anniversary of that amazing achievement, when Apollo 11 landed and humans walked on another celestial body, we want to acknowledge that effort that sacrifice and offer our support to the next wave of space achievements – no doubt again featuring Australians as key contributors.

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