Space Alert August 2018: Australia Ramps Up Efforts in New Global Space Race

By Thomas Jones, Tom Macken


Australia will soon take another small step as part of its leap towards a share of the emerging global space industry, estimated to be worth around AUD 480 billion.

The Space Activities Amendment (Launches and Returns) Bill 2018 (Cth) (Bill) is set to return to the Australian Parliament this week following its review by the Senate Economics Legislation Committee.

The Bill is expected to be passed into legislation once any changes or recommendations made in the Committee's report have been dealt with.

Growing the Australian space industry

The Bill is a particularly important development for the emerging small satellite and launch industry players in Australia. The reductions in cost and administrative barriers to participation in the space industry in Australia to be brought about by the Bill will pave the way for a more open market, and will create additional commercial opportunities for those industry players concerned.

Australia has traditionally lagged behind the rest of the developed world in terms of its space capabilities and participation (as the only OECD country not to have a dedicated space agency), but the creation of the Australian Space Agency earlier this year and the growth in the number of satellite technology, services and manufacturing companies operating in Australia looks set to change this.

The Bill, as drafted, will introduce a new regulatory framework that better supports the space industry in Australia by, importantly, streamlining the approvals processes for the launches and returns of satellites, including the launching of satellites from Australia (rather than overseas).

Promoting participation, investment and innovation

The Bill's stated purpose is to 'ensure safe industry participation, and encourage investment and innovation through legislative simplification'. This reflects the Australian Government's broader desire to transform the Australian economy into one empowered by innovation, technology and science.

The Bill will aim to achieve its stated purpose by:

  • broadening the regulatory framework to include arrangements for launches from aircraft in flight and the launches of high power rockets; and
  • reducing the barriers to participation in the space industry, by streamlining approval processes and insurance requirements for launches and returns.

In addition, the Bill will increase non-compliance penalties for damage to people and property and establish new safeguards for high power rocket activities.