It became home to the headquarters of the Australian Space Centre in 2017, followed by the Mission Control Centre and the Space Discovery Centre.
This year, the city celebrated the establishment of the SmartSat CRC, a consortium of industries and research organisations aimed at catapulting Australia into the global space industry – which is worth more than $500 billion – through collaborative research and development.
The South Australian government has also granted major project status to a venture which aims to become Australia’s first commercial rocket launch site.
The site would be used to launch satellites that could increase internet connections where 3G and 4G aren’t available, monitor natural disasters, manage herds of livestock and crops, and more.
One woman who can help make that happen is space engineer Flavia Tata Nardini, who moved from Rome to Adelaide in 2012.
During her first few years in Australia, Nardini worked with several schools specialising in STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).
In 2015, her startup received government funding that led to the foundation of Fleet Space Technologies, a next generation connectivity company connecting the Internet of Things (IoT) around the world using a massive fleet of small low-cost satellites.
Last November, Fleet launched its first two satellites, Proxima I and II, in New Zealand.
The satellites are the first Australian commercial CubeSats, which are miniaturised, cubic “nano-satellites”.
Shortly after, another two were fired into space: Centauri I and II.
“The launch is a huge step forward, not only for the space industry but also for industries like agriculture, mining, logistics and marine, which are closer than ever to having an IoT communications network based on satellites,” Nardini says.
“This would dramatically change these industries.”
But who is Nardini, or “rocket woman”, as she’s known by the local media?
She was born and raised in Rome, and graduated in Space Engineering at the University La Sapienza in the Italian capital.
She then went on to work at the European Space Agency before following her heart to Australia, to be with her partner, Stefano Landi, also an Italian engineer.
Nardini was confident she’d find work in her field given her impressive resume and the fact that South Australia is renowned for its space industry.
But good things take time and she didn’t find a job as soon as she’d hoped.
This led to Nardini’s decision to establish Fleet Space Technologies.
Her company has now contributed to the innovation of South Australia’s space industry, attracting new investors and influencing the decision to make Adelaide the home of the Australian Space Centre.
Fleet’s ground station located at Red Banks Reservoir, Pinkerton Plains
It all began when Nardini met two people crucial to her work: Matthew Tetlow from the University of Adelaide, who’s involved in building a network of nano-satellites for Europe, and entrepreneur Matt Pearson.
In 2014, came the foundation of Launchbox, an education company that puts space technology in the hands of school students by providing them with mini kits to build their own nano-satellites.
The aim was to get students excited about STEM subjects, particularly females, who are still statistically distanced from the world of science.
“It’s different in Europe; it’s easier to find women engineers,” Nardini says.
Personally, she’s always had a passion for space.
“When I was five years old, I asked Santa Claus for a telescope,” she recounts.
“I come from a large family and we’re all engineers... Even as a little girl, space was my life.”
Central to Fleet Space Technologies is the IoT, the interconnection via the Internet of computing devices embedded in everyday objects, enabling them to send and receive data.
“Every single object in the world will end up on the Internet,” Nardini says.
“In the next 10 years, we’ll witness a massive revolution.
“The real challenge lies with the fact that many industries are located in places where there’s no Internet.
This is where satellites – and, in turn, Fleet – become necessary.
“We’re currently living through the fourth industrial revolution, which will change all of our lives in ‘light-years’.
“Even the tiniest household items will become connected.
“Many people don’t know it, but in 10 years, every single piece of fruit will have an IP address.”
Nardini’s two children – aged six and three – are interested and involved in their mother’s work.
But what does it feel like to launch a satellite into space?
Or more specifically, what was it like the very first time?
“It’s very intense leading up to the launch,” Nardini explains.
“In the first three minutes, you’re just hoping the rocket doesn’t explode.
“Knowing that inside there’s something you’ve poured your heart and soul into is an amazing feeling.
“Once the satellite has been sent into orbit, our work begins and we have to attach it and find it in space... Only then can we celebrate.”
Fleet has recently developed software capable of managing satellites automatically from Earth.
This January, at a conference in Amsterdam, the company presented the network and a promotion which gave the first million customers access to the service for just US$2 a year.
Almost 4 million orders for devices came in; at the moment, Fleet has availability for 1.5 million devices to the satellite network.
These figures reflect how successful the startup has been already.
Nardini was recently appointed as a member of the South Australian Entrepreneurship Advisory Board, which provides strategic advice and opportunities to enable entrepreneurialism across all forms of business, industry and public sector in South Australia.
This is where Nardini met Governor of South Australia Hieu Van Le, who invited her to make a speech at the Governor’s Multicultural Awards in March.
In her speech, Nardini emphasised the importance of immigrants to the Australian economy.
“Currently, 57 per cent of Australian startups are founded by immigrants or children of immigrants, 20 per cent of the work force in Australian startups is made up of international talent and 86 per cent of startups are looking to take on international talent over the next six months.”
But why is this?
“Maybe it’s because those who emigrate have already taken a huge risk and aren’t afraid to do so again when it comes to business,” Nardini says.
“The traits many migrants have are often ones which lead to successful businesses: frontier spirit, determination and a unique perspective with respect to market failures.
“To become a visionary, you have to have an outsider’s perspective so that you can see things from a different angle and identify opportunities and solutions.
“Diversity is a great strength in today’s world, because it generates innovation.
“Successful organisations take advantage of different perspectives, experiences, cultures, genders and skills.
“Australia’s multiculturalism really is one of our startup community’s greatest strengths.”
Speaking of different cultures, Nardini says she misses Italy a lot.
“It’s the most beautiful place in the world; I go back every year with my daughters,” she adds.
Then, she concludes with a joke:
“My next company will be established to create an aircraft that can fly from Adelaide to Rome in an hour.”
Who knows... With Nardini’s skills and ambition, anything is possible!