Regulatory framework for space objects | ACMA

Regulatory framework for space objects

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (the ACMA) is responsible for regulating the use of the radiofrequency spectrum by space objects and systems over Australia. This page describes the regulatory framework it uses to do so.

How the ACMA regulates space objects

There are two foundations to the ACMA’s regulatory framework:

  1. Australian legislation such as the Radiocommunications Act 1992 (the Act) and the Telecommunications Act 1997.

  2. International treaty arrangements such as those entered into by Australia with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).

Through its Radio Regulations, the ITU establishes arrangements for spectrum use by space objects such as satellite networks. In order to assist coordination with other services, the ITU publishes information about the technical and operational characteristics of proposed satellite networks and maintains a Master International Frequency Register (MIFR).

The main way a satellite network meets regulations for using Australian spectrum is by acquiring the appropriate operating licence from the ACMA.

To meet international arrangements, a satellite network must operate in accordance with the Radio Regulations of the ITU.

Before you can provide radiocommunications services, your satellite network must have been filed with the ITU, either by the ACMA or by another member Administration. If you follow the ITU’s the coordination and notification process, your network will be listed on the ITU's MIFR and be protected from interference by other networks in Australia and internationally.

If your satellite network has already been filed with the ITU and you want to provide satellite services in Australia, you must apply to the ACMA for an appropriate radiocommunications licence to authorise those services.

If your satellite network has not been filed with the ITU and you want to provide satellite services in Australia, you must file details of your service to the ITU via the ACMA or another country's Administration. The ACMA will not submit any filing to the ITU or issue a licence unless you follow the correct filing procedure, and we determine your service meets the ITU's technical criteria.

Why the ACMA regulates

The main purpose of Australian and international regulations for space systems is to:

  1. maximise the number of radiocommunications services that can be established while minimising the potential for interference between them

  2. promote efficient and rational use of the radiofrequency spectrum.

Issuing radiocommunications licences enables the ACMA to manage radiofrequency spectrum more effectively. The ACMA only protects licensed services from interference. Licence fees are charged to encourage the efficient use of spectrum, provide a return to government for private use of a community resource and recover costs incurred in managing the radiofrequency spectrum.

What the ACMA regulates

In relation to space systems, the ACMA regulates:

Use of the radiofrequency spectrum

by coordinating and licensing the operation of proposed radiocommunications services.

Operational performance of radiocommunications devices

by imposing equipment standards on the manufacturers, importers and sellers of radiocommunications devices such as transmitters and receivers in order to ensure appropriate performance standards.

Operation of a space based networks as telecommunications carriers

by licensing the operation of networks used specifically as carrier links for telecommunications purposes.

Non-ACMA regulation

Space Activities Act 1998

Commercial space activities such as space launches are covered by the Space Activities Act 1998, which sets out a regulatory framework to meet Australia's obligations under international space law and to its citizens.

Under this Act, certain space activities are prohibited without prior approval. For example, a licence is required to operate a space launch facility. Non-compliance with this requirement can lead to fines or possible imprisonment.

The Space Licensing and Safety Office (SLASO) within the Department of Industry, Science and Resources is responsible for administering the regulatory and safety regime for commercial space activities in Australia. SLASLO enforces the provisions of the Space Activities Act and any agreements entered into by the Commonwealth for commercial space launch projects.

Last updated: 16 April 2019