Space Alert September 2018: Australian Space Agency Enters MoU with French Counterpart

By Thomas Jones, Tom Macken


The recently established Australian Space Agency last week announced that it has entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with its first international partner, the French Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales (CNES).

The MoU represents an important first step for the Australian Space Agency in its efforts to develop umbrella agreements with other key spacefaring nations to promote, and enable, increased Australian industry participation in the emerging global space industry.

Australia's entry into the new global space race

Australia shed its unenviable title as one of the last OECD countries not to have a dedicated national space agency when it established the Australian Space Agency (ASA) in July this year. The ASA is tasked with the ambitious goal of tripling the size of Australia's space industry to AUD10-12 billion by 2030.

The ASA, led by Dr Megan Clark, is vested with the responsibility to transform and grow a globally respected space industry in Australia, primarily by:

  • coordinating, and promoting, Australia's domestic space sector activities;
  • supporting the growth of Australia's space industry through the promotion of increased industry opportunities; and
  • leading Australia's engagement with other international space agencies and industry players.

In the immediate term, the ASA is working to develop a strategy and investment plan to grow Australia's space industry and to proactively engage with other countries to develop international partnerships. Last week's signing of the MoU with CNES is a significant step forward in that respect.

Cooperation with CNES

Under the terms of the MoU, both countries will work collaboratively to develop their respective space programs and capabilities.

In particular, the two will focus on civil space engagement initiatives being led by universities, research institutions, businesses and communities that explore advanced space technology and applications in the areas of earth observation, positioning systems, remote sensing, and other space operations.

This new cooperative arrangement between the two countries will undoubtedly create new jobs and opportunities for players in the booming global space industry.

Bird & Bird's Space and Space Activities Group is well placed to provide any legal or regulatory assistance in this emerging space. The Co-Heads of the Group, Thomas Jones and Jean-Claude Vecchiato, are located in Sydney and Paris, respectively.

Update: In our August space alert, we provided an overview of the Space Activities (Launches and Returns) Bill 2018 (Cth). The Bill has now been passed into legislation as the Space Activities (Launches and Returns) Act 2018 (Cth). The Act will operate to complement the role and objectives of the Australian Space Agency, particularly in relation to its efforts to promote new opportunities for industry participants such as small satellite and launch industry players.