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Conducting Australian space activities

How to comply with the regulatory framework and relevant processes for Australian space activities. Australian Space Agency.

You must get approval to conduct space activities.

Please contact us as soon as possible when planning an activity that requires authorisation under the Space (Launches and Returns) Act 2018.

Early engagement may help answer questions specific to your activity.

You can contact us by email at regulation@space.gov.au.

This information is general advice and is for background information only. It aims to answer frequently asked questions about navigating the regulatory framework and processes.

This page is subject to change.

This general advice must be read with the following legislation:

 

Type of approval

Description

Application requirements

Launch facility licence

To operate a launch facility in Australia

See Part 2, Division 3 of the General Rules

See general advice about launch facility licences

Australian launch permit

To launch one or more space objects from Australia. It may also authorise the connected return of the space object

See Part 3, Division 3 of the General Rules and section 34 of the Act

High Power Rocket permit To launch a High Power Rocket from Australia

See Part 3, Division 3 of the High Power Rocket Rules

See general advice about High Power Rocket permits

Overseas payload permit

To launch a space object overseas (for Australian nationals with an ownership interest)

See Part 4, Division 2 of the General Rules and section 46G of the Act

See general advice about overseas payload permits 

Return authorisation or overseas payload return

To return a space object to Australia or to return a space object overseas (for Australian nationals with an ownership interest

See Part 5, Division 2 of the General Rules

See general advice about overseas payload return authorisation

Authorisation certificate

For space activities that are not otherwise covered by one of the other licence, permit or authorisation types.

No specific application requirements, see Part 6 of the General Rules

Application requirements

The minister or delegate will ensure your application meets the criteria for a licence, permit or authorisation.

The criteria are in the Act and associated framework:

Information in your application will help the minister or delegate decide whether to grant your licence, permit or authorisation.

For some applications, you may also need to refer to the Space (Launches and Returns) (Insurance) Rules 2019. These detail the insurance requirement and environmental considerations for your proposed activity.

You must provide your application in English. Documentation that is not in English must include an English translation.

If your application requires a suitably qualified expert (SQE), your proposed SQE should contact the Office of the Space Regulator.

Suitably qualified experts

For an Australian launch permit, high power rocket permit or a return authorisation application, you will need a suitably qualified expert (SQE).

To apply for approval as an SQE for a particular activity, please contact us at regulation@space.gov.au.

Your application should demonstrate your capability to be an SQE for a particular activity. This could include:

  • your capability to perform or confirm the risk hazard analysis for the particular type of activity
  • your skills and expertise, including as demonstrated through qualifications, training and professional development
  • your relevant experience.

For an organisation, providing details of quality management systems, professional accreditations and certifications may be helpful.

For more information see the General Rules and High Power Rocket Rules.

Preparing your application

We assess applications using an evidence-based process. This means we generally don’t consider standalone statements of compliance against requirements in the Rules to be sufficient.

Your application needs to include relevant supporting materials like:

  • plans
  • procedures
  • diagrams.

Supporting materials should be robust, sufficiently detailed and appropriate for the scope and complexity of your proposed activity.

The explanatory statements for the Rules may provide useful context that can help guide the level of detail expected in an application:

The legislation and associated framework is outcomes based. This provides flexibility for you to tailor your application to your activity.

Submitting your application

To submit an application, please contact us at regulation@space.gov.au.

We will work with you on the best way to submit your documentation.

Assessment timeframes

Applications may take up to 6 months to assess once you submit a substantially complete application.

Timeframes also depend on an applicant providing documentation and further information requested on time. 

Launch facility licence

If you intend to operate a launch facility in Australia, you will need a launch facility licence. This authorises the use of a specifically designed and constructed facility to launch space objects.

Australian launch facilities must be constructed and operated to ensure:  

  • the probability of causing substantial harm to public health, public safety or substantial damage to property is as low as reasonably practicable
  • adequate considerations are made for the environment, Australia’s security, and international relations.

You can be authorised to operate a facility at a fixed location, or a mobile facility across more than one site.

How to apply for a launch facility licence

Before applying make sure you read and understand the launch facility licence guidelines below and Part 2 of the Space (Launches and Returns) (General) Rules 2019.

You should then complete and submit an expression of interest form providing supporting materials demonstrating your progress against the application requirements (in the guidelines below).

Submit your expression of interest and any supporting documentation to regulation@space.gov.au

High Power Rocket permit

High Power Rocket permits ensure that the probability of a High Power Rocket causing substantial harm to public health, safety, or substantial damage to property is as low as reasonably practicable.

A High Power Rocket is a rocket that will not go beyond an altitude of 100km above mean sea level and:

  • is propelled by a motor or motors with a combined total impulse greater than 889,600 Newton seconds or
  • is propelled by a motor or motors with a combined total impulse greater than 40,960 Newton seconds and is fitted with a system or systems that allow active control of its trajectory.

High Power Rockets must adhere to the Flight Safety Code and meet relevant insurance requirements.

If you intend for your rocket to reach an altitude of 100km or more above mean sea level you need an Australian launch permit, not a High Power Rocket permit.

How to apply for a High Power Rocket permit

Before applying, make sure you read and understand:

You should then complete and submit an expression of interest form and provide supporting materials demonstrating your progress against the application requirements (in the guidelines below).

Submit your expression of interest and any supporting documentation to regulation@space.gov.au

Overseas space activities

Permits for overseas space activities ensure that Australia:

  • meets international obligations
  • complies to United Nations space treaties.

Overseas payload permits

Overseas payload permits ensure that space objects launched overseas by an Australian national are safe and have minimal risk to:

  • persons
  • property
  • security defence
  • international relations of Australia.

An Australian national is:

  • an Australian citizen
  • an Australian resident
  • a body corporate (for example, a company registered in Australia)
  • a federal, state or territory government.

Examples of when you may need an overseas payload permit:

  • your Australian company owns a satellite launching outside Australia, even your satellite only formed part of the payload
  • you are an individual Australian citizen who owns part of a payload launching outside Australia
  • your Australian company owns a number of satellites that will launch across a series of launches.

How to apply for an overseas payload permit

Before applying make sure you read and understand:

To apply for an overseas payload permit:

  1. complete:

    • overseas payload permit application form
    • overseas payload permit  operation of payload declaration
  2. submit your application, mandatory attachments and supporting documentation to regulation@space.gov.au

You must include a debris mitigation strategy with your application.

Make sure you include enough detail and supporting evidence in your application to help us assess your eligibility for an overseas payload permit.

Overseas payload permit applications may take up to 3 months to assess once you submit a complete application.

Overseas payload return authorisation

If an Australian national has an ownership interest in a payload, you need an authorisation to return it to a place or area outside Australia.  

If the payload is contained in a space object already subject to another Australian permit or authorisation, you don’t need a separate authorisation for the return.

Overseas payload return authorisations ensure that the return is carried out safely and with minimal risk to persons, property, security and defence, and Australia’s international relations.

How to apply for an overseas payload return authorisation

Before applying make sure you read and understand:

Complete and submit an application form (see below). You should include supporting materials that demonstrate your progress against the application requirements in the guidelines below. Make sure you include enough detail to help us assess your eligibility.

Overseas payload return authorisation applications may take up to 3 months to assess once you submit a complete application.

Environment considerations

You must consider the space environment, including space debris, if you are planning to:

  • launch an Australian space object overseas
  • launch to space from Australia under the Act.

Debris mitigation strategy

The Act requires a debris mitigation strategy for authorisations that involve objects going to space.

The strategy will outline how you will manage the risk of debris generated during the lifetime of your space activity. Debris may be intentional or unintentional.

Under the Act and General Rules, a debris mitigation strategy must:

  • use an internationally recognised guideline or standard for debris mitigation
  • identify the guideline or standard being used
  • describe any mitigation measures planned for orbital debris arising from the proposed launch
  • include an orbital debris assessment.

Examples of internationally recognised guideline or standards include:

  • the space debris mitigation guidelines of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space
  • the Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee’s space debris mitigation guidelines.

These guidelines identify a number of measures:

  • limiting the release of debris during normal operations
  • avoiding intentional destruction and other harmful activities
  • limiting the long-term presence of spacecraft and launch vehicle orbital stages in the low Earth orbit region after mission end.

You must include an orbital debris assessment in your debris mitigation strategy. It typically includes a statistical assessment of the probability of:

  • collision over the life of the space object
  • ground impact should a space object survive re-entry.

Assessments may be in the form of an orbital debris assessment report (ODAR). You can develop an ODAR through the modelling of the current satellite and debris population.

 Examples of internationally recognised orbital debris assessment models are

Insurance for permits and authorisations

Part 3, division 7 of the Space (Launches and Returns) (Insurance) Rules 2019 provides detail on the insurance and financial requirements for applications for:

  • Australian launch permits
  • high power rocket permits
  • overseas payload permits
  • return authorisations.

You can use the Maximum Probable Loss Methodology to calculate the maximum probable loss (MPL) that might occur due to certain activities.

We can provide you with a tool to estimate the MPL. The estimator tool provides a first step for launch decision-makers before seeking specialist advice.

The results obtained from the estimator tool are a guide only. You cannot use them in your application. Applicants must still conduct a rigorous and proper MPL calculation as described in the MPL methodology.

To request the estimator tool, please email regulation@space.gov.au.

Our role in launch oversight

The minister will appoint a launch safety officer (LSO) for granted permits.

LSO’s have 3 main functions:

  • to ensure that notice is given, in accordance with the rules of the launch and return
  • to ensure the launch or return doesn’t endanger people or property
  • to monitor compliance with the Act and any conditions of a relevant Australian launch permit or return authorisation.

An LSO may request access to additional documentation, equipment and facilities. This includes copies of records associated with the launch and the facility, plans and procedures.

The LSO may attend the launch facility prior to and during the launch to undertake:

  • pre-launch launch vehicle inspections
  • pre-launch site inspections and functional overviews
  • launch activity monitoring.

For further information: