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Sydney to host world’s biggest space event in 2025

NSW generates up to 75 per cent of Australia's space-related revenue. (AP PHOTO)

Sydney has defeated four other cities to host the world’s biggest space congress in 2025, in what bid organisers described as a surprise win over well-financed rivals.

The International Astronautical Congress typically attracts more than 6000 participants from the global space community, including governments, industry, science and academia.

Organisers said Jeff Bezos’ aerospace company Blue Origin threw its support behind Sydney’s bid, helping secure the win over main rival Riyadh, capital of Saudi Arabia, as well as Beijing, Bangkok and Istanbul.

There was an intense two-hour debate on the floor of this year’s conference, held in Paris, to decide the 2025 host, during which Saudi Arabia’s long history of human rights violations was called out.

Head of the Australian Space Agency Enrico Palermo said hosting the congress was “a unique chance to show how far Australia has advanced as a space-faring nation” and would create key opportunities for local industry.

“It will help us inspire a new generation of Aussies about the possibilities of space, highlighting its criticality in addressing some of our greatest challenges,” he said.

Chief executive of the Space Industry Association of Australia James Brown said the global space community had decided resoundingly that “Australia is the future of space”.

“We look forward to hosting the world’s most exciting industry in Australia’s most exciting city,” he said from Paris. “Space is critical to everyday life, economy and security, and Australians are at the forefront of the global space industry.”

Several former political players were involved in winning the bid. Brown was married to Malcolm Turnbull’s daughter Daisy and has himself been a contender for various Liberal seats, including a NSW Senate vacancy in 2019.

The association’s director of operations Philip Citowicki was an adviser to then foreign minister Julie Bishop and then UK high commissioner George Brandis.

“Unreal scenes when Saudi bid was knocked back on human rights grounds and a groundswell of support for Australia saw us overthrow it all and win,” Citowicki wrote on Facebook. “Some of the biggest space organisations and agencies supported us, and it was nothing short of awesome.”

The bid also involved the NSW government, which has a space development strategy that aims to maximise the state’s benefit from the Australian Space Agency’s planned expansion before 2030.

The strategy involves fostering a hub for space, advanced manufacturing, aviation and defence industries within the forthcoming aerotropolis surrounding Western Sydney Airport, including a space manufacturing and testing facility that is the subject of a memorandum of understanding with the Australian Space Agency.

A 2020 NSW government document says organisations headquartered in the state generate 50 to 75 per cent of all space-related revenue in Australia, which is about $3 billion to $4 billion in total, while 41 per cent of all Australian space businesses are based in NSW.

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