A new safeguards agreement has opened the door for Australia’s embryonic rocket launch industry to host sensitive US rocket and satellite technology.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and President Joe Biden announced the in-principle Technology Safeguards Agreement (TSA) on the sidelines of the G7 summit in Japan.
“The TSA will create commercial opportunities for our launch sector and sends a signal to the global market that Australia is ‘open for launch’,” reads a tweet from the Australian Space Agency.
President Biden said he intends to ask US Congress to categorise Australia as a “domestic source” under the Defense Production Act. The practical upshot is that technological and industrial collaboration in sensitive areas between the two countries will be streamlined.
On Sunday, Australian Space Agency chief Enrico Palermo said the G7 announcement would go some way towards addressing these concerns.
“This is a vital milestone that will further grow Australia’s space sector,” Palermo said. “We have worked hard on a TSA that protects US technology while supporting the commercial ambitions of Australia’s developing launch sector.”
The announcement is good news for an industry that experienced a $32 million cut in the recent federal budget. Speaking at the Australian Space Summit, Equatorial Launch Australia CEO Michael Jones said the change in budget priorities had been “disappointing’.
“Call it what it is,” he said during a panel discussion on the state of Australia’s space industry. “The lack of federal government support with the change in government makes me nervous, and it makes the job really hard.”
Equatorial last year successfully supported the launch of three NASA sounding rockets from its Northern Territory facility. And he told Cosmos earlier this month that future collaborations depended on technology transfer agreements.
“Because as we travel around the world trying to get rocket companies to come to Australia, there are a number of impediments for them that we have to design strategies to overcome,” he told the summit audience.
Prime Minister Albanese last week toured Gilmour Space Technologies Queensland rocket construction facility for the unveiling of its new Eris orbital rocket. “Australia can compete with the rest of the world,” he said at the event. “What we need to do is to back our businesses that are doing it. This is truly an Australian manufacturing success story, and we want more of them.”
CEO of South Australian-based Southern Launch Lloyd Damp told Cosmos his company would take the budget cuts in its stride.
“To be honest, we are always sad when projects or programs change focus,” he said. “For us, we’ve always believed that the way forward for any new industry is through contracts, not by grants. Contracts are for a specific deliverable outcome. And that’s what our nation needs.”