Australia’s space law legacy was formally established 25 years ago today.

In 1998, the parliament passed the Space Activities Act (SAA) to ensure safe space-related operations, and associated activities. This related to activities in Australia or by any Australian outside of the country.  

SAA was introduced at a time when several Aussie-owned firms were pursuing commercial launch service projects in Queensland, Christmas Island, and South Australia.

The Act even covered the payment of adequate compensation for damage caused to persons or property as a result of space activities, as well as implementing Australia’s obligations under the UN space treaties.

An aerial view of Arnhem Space Centre.
An aerial view of the Arnhem Space Centre operated by Equatorial Launch Australia (ELA). | Photo credit: ELA

SAA reinforced

To address the changing landscape of the space industry, several amendments were made to SAA.  Over the years, amendments were made to cover the range of space activities as well as the new participants involved, including smaller emerging businesses and additional involvement by universities.

The most significant change to address new space environment came in 2019, when the parliament passed a Bill to rename SAA as the Space (Launches and Returns) Act.

This legislative move ensured that the new regulatory framework to included arrangements for:

  • launches from aircraft in flight
  • launches of high-power rockets
  • reducing barriers to participation in the space industry
  • streamlining processes and insurance requirements for the launch and return of a range of space objects.

Since then, the Australian Space Agency has fully activated the Space (Launches and Returns) Act, including a history-making series of launches in the Northern Territory in 2022.

NASA launched three sounding rockets from the Arnhem Space Centre operated by Equatorial Launch Australia. These were the first launches from a commercial spaceport in Australia.

A promotional image for an event.

Our department recognises the First Peoples of this Nation and their ongoing cultural and spiritual connections to the lands, waters, seas, skies, and communities.

We Acknowledge First Nations Peoples as the Traditional Custodians and Lore Keepers of the oldest living culture and pay respects to their Elders past and present. We extend that respect to all First Nations Peoples.