There has been great interest in Space over the last few years in Australia almost entirely lead by private organisations rather than the government. This interest has been fanned by low earth orbiting satellite technology which is very much cheaper to implement than geosynchronous satellites mainly used for communications in the past and are of course still being used. The pressure from private organisations forced the government to establish The Australian Space Agency last year. It is part of the Department of Innovation and Science, with a staff of 20 and a budget of $20 m.
The reason for this is that with low earth orbiting (Leo’s) the orbit radius is only of the order of 1000 km above the earth compared with 22,600 for the geosynchronous case. This means that much smaller and lower powered, hence cheaper satellites can be used. However with the nonsynchronous satellites a much larger number of satellites is needed to provide continuous coverage at any point on the earth.
Leo’s have been launched both from the International Space Station and by Elon Musk’s series of large recoverable rockets from his SpaceX program. The first 60 of an expected 10,000 plus satellites was recently launched which is to provide a global internet service.