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Australia secures ‘important concession’ with US launch deal

The landmark deal to allow more US rockets to blast off from local spaceports contains a significant concession that allows Australia to develop its own launch vehicles.

Joel Lisk told the Space Connect Podcast that the Technology Safeguards Agreement (TSA) signed by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese last year is superior to the deal agreed with New Zealand.

It comes shortly after the full text was released last week for industry feedback, ahead of its passage into becoming a formal treaty between the two nations.

Currently, launching US spacecraft in Australia is difficult, given concerns about protecting sensitive US technology.


However, the TSA will remove many of the barriers faced by firms in both countries. It does, however, come with restrictions for the smaller partner.

“The US holds all the cards,” explained Lisk on the episode set to be released later this week. “I think we’ve seen with some other examples of TSAs that they can be a little bit more restrictive.

“I would largely say most of the text is as expected, but we did see a concession or two in there. New Zealand – which has had a TSA in place since 2016 – had to concede the development of its own rocket technology.

“Australia’s, on the other hand, is a little bit more relaxed. It does contain one of these similar provisions, but it says that Australia can’t use revenue from US launch companies here in Australia to develop rocket technology.


“We can still do it, the money can go into consolidated revenue, and go into the government’s normal budget.

“But we can’t expressly use the profits of US launch activities to develop our own rockets.

“Now, it might seem like a really strict restriction on our sovereignty, but when you compare it to New Zealand’s, which is a blanket ban, it is a really important concession to have.”

The concession – in article 3, paragraph 2 of the TSA – comes with Queensland-based Gilmour Space Technologies preparing for the first launch of its Eris rocket.

The firm recently secured $55 million in investment alongside a vital spaceport licence from the Australian Space Agency. Its launch will be a landmark moment for the local sector.

Meanwhile, the TSA has also been tabled in Parliament and will be subject to an inquiry examining its potential benefits and challenges.

Individuals and organisations can read the full formal agreement and make a submission by visiting this website.

It comes after PM Albanese signed off the agreement in Washington in October alongside the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken.

Adam Thorn

Adam Thorn

Adam is a journalist who has worked for more than 40 prestigious media brands in the UK and Australia. Since 2005, his varied career has included stints as a reporter, copy editor, feature writer and editor for publications as diverse as Fleet Street newspaper The Sunday Times, fashion bible Jones, media and marketing website Mumbrella as well as lifestyle magazines such as GQ, Woman’s Weekly, Men’s Health and Loaded. He joined Momentum Media in early 2020 and currently writes for Australian Aviation and World of Aviation.

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