The concept of a national centre for the analysis of archival and contemporary space astronomy data has been identified as a highly desirable objective by the Australian astronomical community for a number of years. With the approaching launch of the Hubble Space Telescope (HST), the time is now appropriate to actively pursue this objective. HST will generate a data archive of unique astrophysical significance over the course of the ≥ 20 year mission. It is essential that Australian astronomers have efficient access to this resource, both to maintain our position at the forefront of astronomical research, and to complement our major ground-based facilities (particularly the AAT and the Australia Telescope). An Australian facility would provide efficient access to HST data and also to the analysis tools and expertise necessary for utilizing the data. Archival data from other NASA and ESA missions could also be supported, and in the longer term, the facility could become the science centre for the Lyman/Quasat missions.
This paper presents the case for an Australian Space Astronomy Data Centre, reviews the astronomy missions of relevance, and addresses the role, scope and implementation timescale of the facility. Preliminary estimates are given for the resources that will be required, and possible routes for funding the centre are outlined. Above all, the report is intended as a Discussion Paper to promote further consideration of the concept and of the service that could be provided to the Australian astronomical community.