ASA seeks public and industry comment on new space launch rulebook

Max Blenkin

The Australian Space Agency has invited industry members to present their views on updated rules for launch and return of rockets from Australian territory.

That aims to ensure the booming domestic space industry isn’t unduly disadvantaged by regulation, when compared with other nations.

Australia’s space launch regulatory regime was based on the 1998 Space Activities Act, developed at a time when the space industry was in its infancy. In 2015, the government embarked on a review of that legislation to ensure it did not unnecessarily inhibit innovation in Australia’s space activities.

The review concluded the 1998 legislation imposed an unnecessary level of inflexibility, a high level of insurance and financial requirements in comparison with other space-faring nations, and a focus on the type of organisation undertaking the activity rather than the nature of the activity.

Improvements were incorporated in legislation amending the 1998 law, designed provide improvements appropriate to Australia’s national context and supported participation in the Australian space industry.


That was balanced against he Australian Space Agency role as a globally responsible regulator.

The Space Activities Amendment (Launches and Returns) Act 2018 passed both houses of Parliament in August 2018, became law on 31 August 2018 and is to commence on 31 August this year.


“It reflects consideration of removal of barriers to participation in activities, encouraging innovation and entrepreneurship, the safety of activities and the risk of damage to persons and property as a result of activities, and the implementation of certain obligations under the United Nations Space Treaties,” ASA said.

This broadens the regulatory framework to specifically include launches from aircraft in flight and provides for launch of high power rockets.

It also streamlines the approvals processes and insurance requirements for launches and returns. This regulatory framework is articulated in ‘rules’ instead of regulations to provide increased flexibility.

But does it work as it is supposed to in an environment of rapid technological change?

ASA is now seeking industry and public comment.

“Recognising the importance of the rules to future growth of the Australian space industry, as well as ensuring the safety of the Australian community, the Australian Space Agency is undertaking public consultation on the draft rules,” it said.

“The agency is seeking your considered evaluation of the practical implications of these rules, and welcome your comments and feedback during the consultation phase.”

ASA has released exposure drafts of the new rules for launch and return, for insurance requirements and for use of high powered rockets.

It will hold a series of consultation sessions in capital cities, starting in Sydney on 28 May and concluding in Canberra on 11 June.

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