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Gilmour criticism of TSA ‘self-interested’, says ELA chief

The CEO of Equatorial Launch Australia has argued criticism of the recent US launch deal by rival Adam Gilmour was “very self-interested”.

Ahead of his appearance at the Australian Space Summit and Exhibition 2024, Michael Jones said the views were “nationalism and sovereignty virtue hailing” and that he believed the agreement would actually boost the local industry.

“I don’t think that the person who said that did themselves any favour because I don’t think that was correct,” he said.

The Technology Safeguards Agreement (TSA), which was tabled in Parliament in February, will, for the first time, allow US rockets to blast off from local spaceports when it eventually becomes a ratified treaty in July.


However, it contains a constraint that there must be “segregated areas” for sensitive launch vehicle and payload technologies, which are largely limited to US staff.

Gilmour, founder of the eponymously named launch company, said those terms effectively reduced local companies to “renting out concrete pads” and “providing morning coffee to our American friends.”

Responding to Gilmour’s comments, Jones said, “Protectionism went out a long time ago. If you aren’t able to compete and participate on the global stage, you shouldn’t comment on this thing.

“There was a lot of nationalism and sovereignty virtue hailing going on, which I thought was pretty poor form.”


Jones has congratulated the government on finalising the TSA which will help bolster the domestic space industry, highlighting that the TSA would remove barriers for Australian and US firms to launch US spacecraft in Australia.

However, he pointed out that “it is happening two years after it was originally promised”.

“The delay has meant we haven’t been able to sign a contract or do any technology-related work with the US,” he said.

“We’re virtually precluded from it other than the arduous Technology Assurance Agreement (TAA) route. But now, we’ll be okay to go in July this year. That’s a positive thing, even though it’s a lot later than it should have been.”

Jones said ELA had submitted a few questions of clarification regarding the TSA around what he called “small elements” of fundamental implementation.

“For example, if there is to be a non-US component, coupled with a US component, there’s a requirement for Australia to do a memorandum of understanding with that non-US foreign entity. We want to know who does that,” he explained.

“Is it the Australian Space Agency? Or is some other department going to manage this? Is the MOU going to say that they’ll endeavour to follow the principles of the TSA? We want some clarity around that.”

Jones said that as the only entity that has launched a rocket under a TAA with NASA, ELA was already aware of the restriction and how the TSA might work.

“We have already had to promulgate and deal with segregated and quarantined areas, but we are still able to gain access when required for safety and operational reasons,” he said.

“Just getting prior approval is the way it works.”

He noted that this was primarily implemented via a TAA through the State Department, and underscored that he would like reassurance that the TSA would follow the same procedure.

“The TSA provides the framework and is less detailed and onerous than the TAA which will specify exactly what equipment is required, who does what, and when and where. There’s a lot of work to go in there,” Jones said.

Finally, Jones called for ongoing and upfront consultation with the industry as the fine details of implementation are ironed out, so there is clarity on who controls what, and who the beneficiaries are.

He concluded, “We worry that the instruments of government sometimes get a bit carried away. You don’t want to be inadvertently increasing the administrative and commercial burden on the industry by not doing simple consultation. That’s always the risk.”

To hear more from Michael Jones about how commercialising the Australian space industry could boost the economy, come along to the Australian Space Summit and Exhibition.

It will be held on 28 and 29 May 2024 at ICC Sydney.

Click here to buy tickets, and don’t miss out!

For more information, including agenda and speakers, click here.

This summit is produced by Captivate Events. If you need help planning your next event, email director Jim Hall at [email protected].”

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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