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TSA reduces Aussies to ‘making coffee’, says Gilmour

The founder of rocket manufacturer Gilmour has argued that the terms of the recent US-Australia launch deal are so onerous that they will damage the growth of the local sector.

The recently released Technology Service Agreement (TSA) will, for the first time, allow US rockets to blast off from local spaceports when it eventually becomes law.

However, it contains a constraint that only US staff will be allowed near their launch vehicles in specially defined “segregated areas”.

“Australia’s role would be essentially limited to renting out concrete pads and providing morning coffee to our American friends as they walk into their secured site,” Adam Gilmour told The Australian on Saturday.


“So much for supporting growth across our local supply chain and opening new doors for highly-skilled tech jobs and supply chains in Australia.”

Gilmour’s intervention comes shortly after the full text was released 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, though, come with restrictions for the smaller partner.


Joel Lisk, a research associate in space law at Flinders University, previously explained how one of those was to impose supervision requirements on any business working on a US launch.

“This includes the establishment of ‘controlled’ and ‘segregated’ areas within Australia restricted to US citizens and people approved by the US, restrictions on who can examine US technology when it is brought into Australia, and limitations on the countries Australia (and Australian businesses) can deal with or provide space-related services to,” he said.

Australia currently has several launch sites preparing to blast off rockets, including ELA’s Arnhem Space Centre in the Northern Territory, Southern Launch’s Orbital Launch Complex in SA and Gilmour’s Bowen Orbital Spaceport in Queensland.

Gilmour’s differs because it will predominantly specialise in providing its own rockets to blast off satellites, unlike ELA’s which is actively signing up client’s own launch vehicles. Gilmour is currently targeting the first test launch of its Eris launch vehicle as early as next month.

Upon the origin announcement of the TSA last year, both ELA and Southern Launch praised the deal.

“This creates a circular process that will benefit the wider local space industry and put the skills and capabilities of Australian space companies to the forefront of the global space market,” said Southern Launch chief executive officer Lloyd Damp.

“Not to mention the incredible benefits that in-space manufacturing can provide to everyone in society – the TSA paves the way for a new era of space potential.”

ELA’s CEO, Michael Jones, said his business had been negotiating with US rocket manufacturers for several years now, and his team have been awaiting the TSA’s completion.

“Today’s events are great news for us and clears the way for us to finalise our contracts with US launchers,” he said.

“The agreement with the US will be the most comprehensive and detailed TSA of its kind for any nation and there has been a lot of effort by key Australian space industry parties and government entities behind the scenes to ensure we get it right.”

Space Connect examined in detail the constraints of the deal in its latest podcast, which you can listen to below.

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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