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49th International Astronautical Congress, Melbourne, Monday, 28 September 1998: address on the occasion of the opening.

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This is the first time that the IAF International Astronautical Congress has been held in Australia. Indeed, it is only the second time that it has been held in the Southern Hemisphere.

It is, by any standards, an important international event. Let me, as Governor- General of Australia and one who was bom in Melbourne, tell all of you who are participating in the Congress that we are delighted that you have decided to gather here in our nation’s second largest city. Let me also, without mentioning individual names other than the two host organisations, the Commonwealth Scientific & Industrial Research Organisation and the Institution of Engineers Australia, congratulate and thank all those who initially succeeded in having Melbourne designated as the host city for the Congress and all those who have, in the intervening period, worked so hard to bring it to the stage where it is now commencing. I sincerely hope that none of you is seriously

inconvenienced by the consequences of the tragic accident, which has temporarily disrupted the city’s gas supplies.

I understand that we have with us today distinguished scientists and their colleagues from the vast range of disciplines represented by the 137 members of the International Astronautical Federation and its associates, the International Academy of Astronautics and the International Institute of Space Law. What unites you all is a common desire to advance our knowledge of space and the development and application of space assets for the benefit of all humanity. As your Congress program rightly points out, these annual conferences and symposia play a very significant role in disseminating information on the latest in space theory and technology, as a forum for the discussion of ideas, and for the global network of expertise and contacts which it provides and which

lasts from one year to the next. For quite apart from the shared professional interests, there is the great opportunity the Congress offers you to resume old friendships, and to make new ones.

As you know, the theme of the Congress this year is “Pacific Rim - A Rapidly Expanding Space Market”. This region will be receiving special attention during the series of 9 Plenary Events taking place during the Congress, focussing on such subjects as the technologies for future exploration missions of the solar system, the use of space solar



power, satellite navigation, the development and research opportunities of the International Space Station, and of course the future direction, impact and value of the world’s space program.

Quite apart from the fact that it is the neighbourhood of the host nation, there is a number of good reasons why this 49th Congress should focus on the Asia-Pacific region. It is a region which accounts for more than 60% of the world’s population. It is the region where, I believe, the strongest growth in the space industry is taking place notwithstanding recent events in some of our region’s financial markets. It is a region where many countries are looking to space-based products and services as an essential element in their strategies to explore and maintain the sustainable use of natural resources and to manage associated environmental issues and within which communications, navigation systems and weather services are constantly being improved through the regional participation of a growing number of countries in the provision of space technologies.

The increasing co-operation between countries with medium-sized economies, sharing the cost of deploying a cluster of smaller satellite systems, nominating common payloads and building together what has been called a constellation of capability, is not only an important sub-theme of this Congress but of course an exciting potential now being increasingly exploited on the ground. In a country with such vast distances as Australia, the value of these communication systems is obvious. They allow remote tracking, paging and messaging services at very low cost, cheap Internet connections for isolated schools, and the technology now exists for the application of tele-medicine, whereby images and voices can be sent via satellite from surgeons in the large cities to doctors working in outback hospitals. I know that you will be discussing such issues in depth during the Congress. While the concerns of this Congress lie largely at the international level, the

fact that you are gathering in our country leads me to hope that you may be interested to hear a little about what is happening on our local scene.

In recent months, there has been a number of significant advances in Australia towards facilitating the future growth of the space industry in our country. Legislation has been in the course of preparation to embody Australia’s responsibilities as a State Party to the various United Nations space treaties, and may be presented when the Parliament resumes after the current election. As part of that development, consultations have been held on the commercial aspects of the space industry. A licensing process is also being developed to facilitate the commercial viability of projects and to regulate satellite launch

activities. It will ensure that Australia’s international obligations, as well as domestic safety issues, are properly considered.

In that respect, some of you will be aware that the Kissler Corporation, based in the United States, has received approval from the Australian Government to proceed to establish a commercial launch service in this country. After a hiatus of some 3 decades, it is quite possible we will see launches once again from Woomera - the base in remote

South Australia, first developed half a century ago to test guided missiles and operate equipment for international space research programs. Furthermore, the Asia-Pacific Space Centre has also announced plans to establish a launch service from Christmas Island, an Australian Territory in the Indian Ocean, which may well be used to help establish and maintain the region’s constellation satellite systems. Certainly it is hoped that this country will play a variety of roles in the development of future reusable and hence more cost-

effective launch vehicles.


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The third matter I would mention briefly is the establishment at the beginning of this year, of the Co-operative Research Centre for Satellite Systems, to strengthen the development of the small-satellite industry in this country. The Centre, supported by the Australian Government, 4 private companies, 6 universities and 2 government research organisations, is a timely and important initiative given the growth of activity in the region - and especially the “smaller, cheaper and faster” approach to satellite systems.

Interestingly, the Centre’s first mission is to design and build the FedSat micro-satellite - the first to be built in this country for 30 years. When it is orbiting in 2001, the centenary of our Federation as a nation, FedSat is expected to provide valuable research data in such areas as communications, space science and engineering, and of course it will also be a challenging educational resource.

Ladies and gentlemen, there can be no doubt that the holding of the 49th International Astronautical Congress in Australia has already acted as a significant and most beneficial stimulus to the scientific, academic, industrial and government research organisations involved in the field of space technology and engineering in our country - no less than to the public imagination. The effects of that stimulus will extend well beyond the formal conclusion of the Congress. I sincerely hope that the Congress proceedings are equally rewarding for all of you who are participating in them.

Finally, let me extend a particular welcome to those participants in the Congress who are visiting Australia from overseas. To each of you I extend a warm welcome. I hope that your visit to our country will be a very happy one. I hope that you will see as much of Australia as the length of your stay permits. And I hope that, when the time comes to return to your own countries, you carry with you fond memories of Australia and of Australians.

And now, with much pleasure I declare the 49th IAF International Astronautical Congress to be officially open.