Commonwealth Introduces Bill to Improve Space Activities Regulation

Monday 4 June 2018 @ 10.01 a.m. | Legal Research

The Commonwealth Government introduced the Space Activities Amendment (Launches and Returns) Bill 2018 (Cth) (‘the Bill’) on 30 May 2018. The Bill is for the purpose of encouraging investment in space innovation and ensuring safe industry participation.


According to the explanatory statement for this Bill, the Space Activities Act 1998 (Cth)('the Act') originally established a regulatory framework for licensing and safety requirements for space activities in Australia or involving Australian interests, and implemented certain elements of Australia’s international publications under United Nations Space Treaties. However due to changes in the operating environment as noted in the Review, this Bill proposes to amend the Act to address changes to the operating environment. Changes include both the type of activities being undertaken as well as new participants such as small business and universities.

This Bill follows on from a  review of the Act, which was announced by the Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science on 24 October 2015. Under the review, reforms under consideration included:

  • Streamlining of the objects of the Act to appropriately balancing risk and benefit and Australia’s international obligations;
  • Introduction of a licence type to authorise payloads;
  • Consideration of possible changes in relation to fees and insurance;
  • Consideration of a high level statement committing applicants to consider the space environment.

As noted in the second reading speech by Minister for Social Services Dan Tehan, the Bill proposes to address the recommendation by the review that there should be more flexibility to accommodate the changing operating environment for space activities and support innovation and investment.

Main Amendments

This Bill proposes to make the following key amendments to the Act:

  • Amendment of the title to include reference to high power rockets;
  • Amendment of the objects of the Act to include the regulation of the launch of high power rockets and to ensure that a reasonable balance is achieved between industry participation and the safety of space activities and to include reference to the risk of damage to persons or property;
  • Insertion of a new definition of ‘aircraft’ because the Act also regulates the launch of space objects from Australian aircraft or foreign aircraft in airspace over Australian territory;
  • Insertion of definitions for various definitions such as ‘Astronauts and Objects Agreement’ and ‘Australian high power rocket permit’;
  • Insertion of provisions related to third party damage in the air or on Earth.

The Bill also proposes to amend the Customs Tariff Act 1995 (Cth) to update the reference to the short title of the Act.

In his second reading speech, Minister for Social Services Dan Tehan stated that the Bill aimed to improve the regulatory framework for space activities:

‘The bill broadens the regulatory framework to unlock potential further opportunities for space sector growth in Australia and reduce barriers to participation in the space industry. It will bring us in line with agreed international practice and standards by streamlining the approvals process and insurance requirements for launches and returns. The bill will encourage our businesses to innovate, invest and create jobs.’

On the licensing arrangements, Mr Tehan noted:

‘It will create a more flexible regulatory environment to make it easier for these businesses to tap into global supply chains and access the benefits on offer for all Australians. To reflect the changing nature of launch facilities, the bill includes licensing arrangements for launches from Australian aircraft in flight, in addition to more traditional ground launches. The bill also provides appropriate safeguards to mitigate the risk of damage from the launch or return of a space object, or from the launch of a high power rocket.’

TimeBase is an independent, privately owned Australian legal publisher specialising in the online delivery of accurate, comprehensive and innovative legislation research tools including LawOne and unique Point-in-Time Products. Nothing on this website should be construed as legal advice and does not substitute for the advice of competent legal counsel.


Space Activities Amendment (Launches and Returns) Bill 2018 (Cth), explanatory memorandum and second reading speech as published on TimeBase LawOne.

Department of Industry, Innovation and Science, ‘Reform of the Space Activities Act 1998.’ 

Related Articles: