MBIE report reviews Outer Space and High-altitude Activities Act

The scheduled three-year review of the Outer Space and High-altitude Activities Act 2017 (OSHAA) was completed recently and MBIE issued its report last month.  The report can be found here.  The report includes the findings of the industry consultation process that took place in August and September last year.

The report finds that the OSHAA has performed well and there have been no material safety or security issues.  Fourteen substantive matters and a number of more minor points are discussed in the report.  While the report recommends some changes to the regulatory regime, for the most part the report contemplates more analysis and consideration be given to the issues raised.

Recommended changes in the report include:

  • establishing a register of high-altitude vehicles;
  • new regulations to regulate the collection and dissemination of data obtained by remote sensing; and
  • amending the OSHAA to:
    • exclude ground station only operations from its scope;
    • expand its scope to applicants that intend to conduct space exploration beyond Earth orbit;
    • enable regulation of activities possible as a result of new and emerging technologies (eg, regulating the removal of space debris and the utilisation of space resources); and
    • allow licences and permits that are no longer required to be surrendered.

Areas identified for further consideration or more work include:

  • defining launch activities, which the report contemplates could be where a launch vehicle or any part of it is intended to go into Earth orbit or beyond (meaning anything below that would only require a high-altitude licence);
  • how best to regulate new and emerging high-altitude activities (ie, where they are carrying a payload or equipment for another person);
  • considering having separate authorisation required for the return to New Zealand of space objects and high-altitude vehicles launched outside of New Zealand;
  • safety in relation to launch requirements, where the report contemplates MBIE assessing whether more detailed safety regulation is required (potentially moving to performance-based safety regulation);
  • safety in relation to high-altitude activities, where the report recommends MBIE engaging with CAA on the applicability and appropriateness of Part 101 of the Civil Aviation Rules for high-altitude vehicles (and particularly high-powered rockets); and
  • considering having additional low-level enforcement options (eg, notices and activity vetoes).

The Minister has accepted the report’s recommendations.

The report is a worthy read as it gives good insight into MBIE’s thinking on the issues raised.  It summarises the existing regime, outlines the points raised by the submitters, sets out the MBIE analysis from a policy perspective before making its recommendations, with explanations as to reasoning.  However, given many of the issues require more work, at this stage those in this industry should just keep a watching brief on MBIE’s activities.

MBIE also intends to undertake a separate public consultation later this year on New Zealand’s space policy settings more broadly.  MBIE notes that this space policy review will include considering the peaceful, sustainable and responsible uses of space and what this means for space activity from New Zealand.

If you are interested in how this legislation may affect you, please contact us.

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