Tool to check legal requirements for space activity

The legal framework for space industries is still being developed, however a project from the University of Adelaide’s Law School and firm International Aerospace Law and Policy Group (IALPG) have released a tool for manufacturers to operate legally in space.

With Australia’s burgeoning space ecosystem not just driven by large government agencies and prime contractors, this tool, named the Australian Navigational Guide Explaining Laws for Space (ANGELS) is designed to be used by the start-ups and SMEs that characterise Space 2.0 in Australia.

The project was supported with funding from the Law Foundation of South Australia and overseen by a board of experts, including dean of law, Professor Melissa de Zwart, expert in aviation law, Joseph Wheeler, and Professor Dale Stephens, who, along with de Zwart, is an expert in domestic and international space law. The project was managed by Duncan Blake, PhD candidate at Adelaide Law School and special counsel on space law with IALPG.

“Information provided on the ANGELS website gives guidance to space start-ups here in South Australia and throughout Australia to conduct their business in accordance with Australian, foreign and applicable international law,” said Blake.

Those wishing to operate in space must not only comply with domestic legal framework in the terrestrial development of their project and its launch, but an overlapping web of international legislation once the project is in orbit. This is made necessary by the many international collaborations which enable space projects to occur.

Specifically, ANGELS covers liability and insurance, export control, intellectual property laws, laws for hybrid aerospace vehicles, remote sensing, launching objects, among other topics.

“Space entrepreneurs can maximise their prospects of commercial success by knowing about laws applicable to space activities and manage the risk of penalties and liability,” said Blake.

Australia’s regulations for space activities include the Space (launches and Returns) Act 2018 (Cth), which requires a licence to operate a launch facility, a permit is required for the launch of an object, and high-power rockets also need a permit.

“Like many spacefaring nations, Australia has a regulatory framework to implement its international obligations to authorise and supervise national space activities in Australia and by Australians overseas. The ANGELS website provides the Australian space industry with a ‘go-to’ resource for laws and regulations that are relevant to it,” said Blake.