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Outer Space Open for Business (Print Version)


Rachel Worsley


Outer space enthusiasts have set up a new space entrepreneurship group in Sydney, saying it’s time Australia blaze the way for the new commercial industry of the future.


The group, Orbit Oz, was founded early this year and is the brainchild of UTS computer science lecturer and entrepreneur Brian Lim.


According to him, the idea that it’s impossible to commercialise space is a myth.


“People keep forgetting that the weather report relies on satellite data, and certain medical practices also use techniques that were developed by the space industry. So the group is about bridging the gap of what’s the public perception of space, which is quite difficult and hard to go there, versus what it actually is, which is quite approachable,” said Mr Lim.


Orbit Oz’s first meeting was held in late February and attracted over 60 participants, including  entrepreneurs, space engineers and those interested in space.


Dr Jason Held is an entrepreneur who founded aerospace engineering company Saber Astronautics. His company was the first to create a commercially successful space consumer product, Vostok Space Beer, that could be drunk in zero gravity conditions.


He says the commercial success is proof the space industry can connect with potential consumers.


“Having a beer is something most people in Australia can connect with, and having people buy it allows us to access a revenue stream to develop further products,” said Dr Held.


Tim Parsons, a digital media consultant and former aerospace engineer, was inspired to re-enter the space industry with the creation of Orbit Oz.


However, he says that Australia needs to work on marketing its space technologies.


“High tech is not packaged very well, it’s not well branded, we don’t tell a very good story. So even though we have great academic rigour, and our universities produce highly trained people, we suck at selling high tech.”


“We also have to get better at pitching high tech Australian businesses to investors around the world, and demonstrate we can do it better, smarter and cheaper than everyone else,” said Mr Parsons.


UTS physics major Kiri Simon attended Orbit Oz out of a lifelong interest in space. She says commercialising space represents an exciting opportunity in human history.


“It gives a look at the future where humanity can expand together, we don’t have to destroy the environment to do it…to me, that’s immensely positive,” she said.


Mr Lim said Orbit Oz will alternate between networking and guest speakers on a bi-monthly schedule throughout the year.