Finalised rules on high power rockets and launch permits

The Australian Space Agency has finalised three sets of rules in support of the refreshed Space (Launches and Returns) Act 2018:

  • the Space (Launches and Returns)(General) Rules 2019, effective immediately;
  • the Space (Launches and Returns)(High Power Rockets) Rules 2019, effective 30 June 2020; and
  • the Space (Launches and Returns)(Insurance) Rules 2019, effective immediately.

The finalised Rules, together with refreshes of the Flight Safety Code and the Maximum Probable Loss Methodology, and the Act, have modernised access to and participation in space commerce for local sector participants.

This marks an impressive turnaround from the Agency's June 2019 consultation phase, and coincides with the Act coming into effect.

The Rules form an important part of the 'Responsible' pillar in the Agency's Advancing Space: Civil Space Strategy 2019-2028, promoting national security, a culture of safety, risk management and regulatory certainty in line with international norms, without stifling entrepreneurialism.

The Science Party made submissions in response to the consultation on the draft rules, including:

  • high power rockets being defined by reference to a combination of factors, including impulse, active control, and the intent of the activity;
  • personal information required by the Agency being limited to the minimum extent necessary;
  • notification to regulators not including foreign agencies;
  • weapons not being launched into outer space;
  • providing a regime to account for reusable vehicles;
  • ensuring environmental plans approved under other areas of government still being required to comply with the rules; and
  • simplifying and avoiding duplication requirements in applications where appropriate.

The Rules include some of these elements, notably:

  • high power rockets being defined by a combination reference to impulse and active control;
  • applications for Australian launch permits being required to include declarations that nuclear weapons or weapons of mass destruction of any other kind not being included with or as part of the payload of the intended launch vehicle; and
  • simplified requirements on the detail required to be included in applications.

While there remains scope to provide for reusable vehicles and develop further the distinction between high power rockets intended as space objects and aircraft that eventually adopt characteristics of high-powered rockets but which don't, or are not intended to, traverse outer space, the Rules are an encouraging step forward in fostering a vibrant space economy in Australia.

 

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