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US-Australia agreement to help grow Australia’s civil space sector

Australia and the USA will build on over 60 years of space collaboration by commencing negotiations on a bilateral Technology Safeguards Agreement (TSA), the Australian government has announced.

The Government is also deferring the introduction of partial cost recovery for applications submitted under the Space (Launches and Returns) Act 2018 for another 12 months. The aim of these measures is to help to reduce launch costs and open the door to increased collaboration with major US companies.

Minister for Industry, Science and Technology, Christian Porter, said the TSA will set out principles under which US companies can collaborate with Australian firms on local launch projects, knowing that sensitive US technology and data will be protected.

“In negotiating a proposed TSA with the US, the Government is considering how this opportunity could further enhance space collaboration and protect the movement of sensitive technologies and goods with one of our closest allies, while retaining flexibility for our local industry to continue to grow and providing new opportunities for Australian space businesses,” Minister Porter said.

Under the deferral of fees, businesses can continue to apply for space activities such as launches without incurring an application fee. These settings will remain in place until 1 July 2022 to encourage launch activity and continued investment and growth in the broader space sector.

Head of the Australian Space Agency Enrico Palermo said these national and international opportunities would both help grow Australia’s space sector. The negotiations with the US, if successful, are expected to strengthen investment for both space industries by enabling the transfer of technologies and providing scope for growth in Australian space launch capability.

“The US and Australia have a long-standing, close and strong collaboration in space exploration. These negotiations open up new opportunities for our nations to work together and continue to grow the Australian space industry through cooperation in space,” Mr Palermo said. “Deferring fees for another 12 months will also provide opportunities to grow the sector, particularly our domestic launch capability.”

The Australian Government has invested more than $700 million to grow the Australian civil space sector since the establishment of the Australian Space Agency in 2018.

The Space Industry Association of Australia (SIAA) has welcomed these announcements. Currently, there are legal restrictions in the United States which prevent US rocket scientists from working on Australian space projects and limit the ability of Australian and US space technology being integrated, according to the CEO of SIAA, James Brown.

Today, US companies are regularly engaged in working with Australian space companies, and Australian technologies are assisting US companies in solving space-related issues. There are significant opportunities to deepen this cooperation which a TSA will galvanise, Brown said. This includes supporting the development of launch activities in Australia which would provide new and resilient options in support of US and Australian national security, civil, and commercial space priorities.

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