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Conducting Australian space activities

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

You must get approval to conduct space activities.

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

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.

August 2022 update

The new section about Overseas Payload Permits includes:

  • a new set of guidelines
  • an application form
  • operation of payload declaration template.

Application requirements

The minister or delegate must be satisfied that the criteria applicable to your licence, permit or authorisation are met. 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.

The following table guides you to the relevant requirements:

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

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

Overseas payload permit

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

See Overseas Payload Permits 

High power rocket permit

To launch a high power rocket from Australia

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

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

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

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

Your application must be written 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.

Email regulation@space.gov.au to apply for approval.

Debris Mitigation Strategy

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.

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:

  • be based on 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.

An orbital debris assessment is required as part of the 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 NASA’s Debris Assessment Software and the European Space Agency’s Debris Risk Assessment and Mitigation Analysis tool.

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 and diagrams to support the claims in your application. 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. You can find explanatory statements here:

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

Submitting your application

Before submitting 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

An application for an overseas payload permit may take up to 3 months to assess once you submit a substantially complete application.

More complex applications may take up to 6 months to assess once you submit a substantially complete application. Examples of complex applications are:

  • Australian launch permit
  • high power rocket permit
  • launch facility licence
  • return authorisation.

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

Overseas Payload Permits

Overseas Payload Permits ensure that a space object or objects launched outside of Australia by an Australian national are assessed as safe with minimal risk to persons or property or to the security, defence or international relations of Australia. They also ensure that Australia, as a launching state and responsible party, meets it obligations under various international obligations and United Nations space treaties.

A launch of a space object from a facility or place outside Australia by an Australian national requires an Overseas Payload Permit or an authorisation certificate.  

An Overseas Payload Permit may authorise the launch of one or more space objects, or a particular series of launches of space objects appropriate to authorise by a single permit.  

Examples of when an Overseas Payload Permit may be required

  • your Australian company owns a satellite to be launched outside Australia – your company would need an Overseas Payload Permit, even your satellite only formed part of the payload
  • you are an individual Australian citizen who owns some part of a payload to be launched outside Australia (for example, an instrument carried on a satellite, or part of a space science experiment) – you would need an Overseas Payload Permit
  • your Australian company owns a number of satellites that will be launched across a series of launches – a single Overseas Payload Permit may be appropriate.

How to apply for an Overseas Payload Permit

Before applying make sure you read and understand the Overseas Payload Permit – Guidelines (below) and Part 4 of the Space (Launches and Returns) (General) Rules 2019.

You apply for an overseas payload permit by:

  1. completing the Overseas Payload Permit – Application Form and Overseas Payload Permit – Operation of Payload Declaration
  2. submitting your application, mandatory attachments and supporting documentation to regulation@space.gov.au

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

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).

In some cases, the minister or delegate must approve an SQE. This is outlined in the General Rules and High Power Rocket Rules.

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.

Insurance

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 and cannot be used 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.