If there’s one thing about Australia that would appeal to a Space program it would be the large amount of unused space, partially due to its inhability. However, dry conditions with a distinct lack of variable weather do make for great launch sites and technology test beds (See the success of Mojave Air and Space Port). So the question remains, why don’t we see more aeronautical innovation coming out of Australia? Well the answer is two fold but I still believe that there is an untapped opportunity for a certain technology to make its name in Australia.
Although Australia is a resource rich country we lack the capital needed to get a space program off the ground. There’s no discounting the fact that space travel is damned expensive and holding onto the talented people required is difficult even for Australia’s current industries. This means that even though we may have the resources and the talent to do it, Australia just can’t really pony up the few billion a year to support what amounts to a glorified science mission. If Australia’s GDP does get up past a certain level, one where the space program was 1% of GDP or so, we might start to see the government looking seriously at such an initiative, but for now it’s too expensive.
Additionally there’s not enough base infrastructure in place for investors and innovators to take the risk of establishing a aeronautical research company anywhere on Australian shores. Typically, whilst Australian airlines are big purchasers of new technology we aren’t active in research and development. Again I’d put this down to our size since we really don’t have enough people to make development of such technology viable.
However, we do have a massive amount of unused and uninhabitable land right at our doorsteps. Now you may be wondering why this would be useful for testing space technology. Well there’s one kind of tech that requires this much space to be tested safely, the Project Orion. Here’s a video of the idea in action (using normal explosives):http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=uQCrPNEsQaY
The basic idea behind this kind of rocket is to use nuclear warheads to propel the space craft forward. We all know the devastating power that such devices hold and utilizing them as propulsion is not without its risks. However, even the smallest projected rocket from this technology already passes NASA’s Ares V rocket, and the largest is enough to transport an entire, pre-built city into orbit. Whilst I’m cautious about quoting figures like that it is hard to ignore the lower end of the scale, which would increase our space capability dramatically.
Since we have so much unusable space in the middle of Australia I believe that setting up a base to test this technology on the small scale could be of huge benefit. The risks to people are extremely low, and if we pick the right site the risks to the local flora and fauna could be greatly reduced. It is also a great way to rid ourselves of the nuclear arsenel that has been accumulated over the years.
So, with the resources at hand and a large space to test in, why shouldn’t we give this idea a go?