Skip to main content

Launch or communicate with a small satellite or CubeSat

If you plan to communicate with a small satellite or CubeSat, you need to use the radiofrequency spectrum. You must follow the rules for space-based communication systems. This enables everyone to operate in a stable environment, without interference.

About small satellites and CubeSats

A small satellite is generally a satellite that weighs less than 500kg. This definition includes:

  • nanosatellites (under 10kg)
  • picosatellites (under 1kg)
  • CubeSats, a type of nanosatellite made of up to 6 modular units or cubes, that each measure 10cm cubed

It is much cheaper to build and launch small satellites. This makes it possible for more organisations to take part in the satellite industry, such as:

  • universities
  • research bodies
  • start-up companies

They can now operate satellites for a range of purposes:

  • communication
  • earth observation
  • space exploration

What to do before you launch or communicate with a satellite

Step 1: talk to us

Tell us what you are trying to achieve so we can explain:

  • the spectrum you need
  • which licence is the most suitable
  • which frequency you can operate on
  • the rules you must follow


Step 2: apply for a radiocommunications licence

You must have the right radiocommunications licence to use or operate a satellite network. The licence authorises:

  • communication between space objects and ground stations in Australia
  • space research
  • radioastronomy activities

To avoid interference, you may also need us to coordinate with existing and planned networks.

Step 3: ask us to file the details on your behalf

If you want to set up a new satellite network, we need to submit the details to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). See Set up and operate a new satellite network.

Step 4: contact the Australian Space Agency

The Australian Space Agency administers the Space (Launches and Returns) Act 2018. You must follow this Act if you want to launch:

  • a space object in Australia
  • an Australian space object overseas

Email or find out more about Australian space regulations.

Step 5: wait for your radiocommunications licence

If your application is simple, we may issue the licence within 10 business days.

It may take 6 months or more if your application:

  • is complex
  • needs a regulation to change
  • needs us to coordinate with the operators of international networks

If you operate without a licence we can:

  • give you a fine
  • prosecute you

This page is a summary of the fact sheet.

Back to top