Wednesday, 26 June 2019
Getting ACRUX-1 off the shelf, overseas and ready to be launched into space is in itself an incredible achievement. But we believe that the success of ACRUX-1 tells a much deeper story which goes beyond this extraordinary feat. ACRUX-1 represents a lot of firsts – not just for us, but for Australia as a whole.
In the second of this three-part series, we spoke to our managerial team about some of the unique accomplishments, challenges, and experiences MSP and its departments have had over the years, and how these things put ACRUX-1 in a league of its own.
Unfortunately, there is no “how-to” book on sending a satellite into space. The Business Sustainability team faced its biggest challenge from the moment we decided we wanted to get ACRUX-1 off the ground: navigating the broad and complex matrix of international and domestic regulations for space activity.
The entire project involved putting theory into practice: a rare opportunity for law students to have autonomy and hands-on experience in applying the law. Adept application of the law also required that we go beyond our comfort zone and engage with the technical functionality of the Cube-Satellite. Ongoing dialogue with the Engineering team meant that our learning was multi-disciplinary and collaborative – radio spectrum, magnetorquers, state vectors… we’ve covered a lot that you won’t hear about in the law classroom.
Technology is evolving much faster than the law; governments around the world are scrambling to meet the new demands of an accessible, affordable and thriving space technology sector.
ACRUX-1 was licensed under the Space Activities Act 1998 (Cth) – and of course, much has changed since 1998. An early shock was learning that we would need to be insured for a minimum of $750 million for any damage caused by our satellite – a requirement no doubt contemplated at a time when only the juggernauts of the commercial world could send a satellite into space. (Thankfully, we were able to secure an insurance waiver from the Minister of Industry, Science and Technology.)
The miniaturisation of today’s technology means small satellites can be developed rather inexpensively – making space activity accessible for small companies and not-for-profits. With the recent introduction of the Space (Launches and Returns) Act 2018 (Cth), future MSP projects will operate under a modernised regulatory regime; notably, the $750 million insurance requirement has been replaced by more surmountable figures!
Some of our key achievements for ACRUX-1 include the securing of:
- An Overseas Launch Certificate under the Space Activities Act 1998 (Cth);
- An Australian Export License from the Department of Defense (to export the satellite from Australia);
- New Zealand Payload Permit under the Outer Space and High-Altitude Activities Act 2017 (to launch the satellite from New Zealand);
- Radio Spectrum Licensing via the Australian Communications & Media Authority (ACMA), the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and the International Amateur Radio Union (IARU); and
- A Launch Services Agreement with our launch provider, Spaceflight.
In fact, we were the first student-run organisation to get accepted by the ACMA for radio spectrum licensing and then be listed with the ITU as an Australian organisation.
And let’s not forget about transport: we had to send our satellite to our launch service provider, Spaceflight, in the U.S. for integration before they then sent it to Rocket Lab in New Zealand.
When we first considered the prospect of taking a satellite as hand-luggage for an overseas flight, we thought this was crazy! But our team successfully managed the logistics of this transport, speaking with the relevant Australian and U.S. customs and TSA, and we carried ACRUX-1 – among the more unusual things to store in an overhead compartment – to Seattle without a hitch.
Having worked through the legal process of ACRUX-1, the team is now able to bring a studied and critical perspective to the Australian space law regime.
Recently, we wrote a stakeholder submission to the Australian Space Agency, providing feedback on the proposed ‘Rules’ to accompany the brand-new Space (Launches and Returns) Act 2018 (Cth).
We believe the technological acumen we’ve gained with ACRUX-1 could provide some helpful guidance for other Australian groups seeking to navigate the complexities and the nuances of national and international space law – and serve as an insightful case study for developing the future of Australia’s space capability.