Regulatory regime

The New Zealand Government supports the development of an internationally credible, competitive and well connected NZ-based space economy that can make a difference in our everyday lives.

Our regulatory regime is the key to making this happen. It enables the growth of a safe, responsible and secure space industry that meets our international obligations and manages any liability arising from our obligations as a Launching State.

The regulatory regime includes:

The Outer Space and High-altitude Activities Act 2017 (OSHAA)

The OSHAA Act passed into law on 10 July 2017 and will commence on 21 December 2017.

The OSHAA Act regulates launches into outer space, launch facilities, high altitude vehicles (HAVs) and payloads, through licences or permits. This process will be administered by the New Zealand Space Agency within MBIE.

The Act contains certain tests which the responsible Minister must be satisfied of in order to grant a licence or permit (as the case may be). These tests include:

  • Technical capability to safely conduct the proposed activity e.g. a safe launch, or safe operation of the payload
  • An orbital debris mitigation plan that meets any prescribed requirements
  • The proposed activity is consistent with New Zealand’s international obligations

Despite being satisfied of these matters, the responsible Minister may decline to grant a licence or permit if the Minister is not satisfied that the proposed operation is in the national interest, or if national security risks have been identified that result in the issuing of a certificate.

All activities will also need to comply with all other applicable New Zealand legislative requirements, such as resource consents, health and safety and environmental requirements. The legislation will allow the Minister responsible to recognise overseas licences and permits as satisfying some of the New Zealand requirements.

Our regulatory regime and international obligations are extraterritorial – meaning they also apply to New Zealand nationals (or New Zealand entities) carrying out space launches or satellite activities from other countries.

Rocket Lab contract

The Government has an agreement with Rocket Lab USA Inc and Rocket Lab NZ which authorises their current launch activities. Once the Act comes into force (on 21 December 2017) Rocket Lab will be required to apply for a licence within six months.

Why are HAVs part of the new regulatory regime?

Including HAVs in the regulatory regime is intended to future proof the legislation for advances in technology and ensure that different technologies performing similar functions are treated in a consistent manner.

Some high altitude technologies have similar functions to satellites, such as for earth monitoring, communications and internet connectivity.

We already have high altitude activity happening from New Zealand. These range from small, uncontrolled balloons launched for the purpose of collecting weather data or educating students to large controllable balloons carrying sophisticated imaging and communications equipment for scientific research.

More information about the Outer Space and High-altitude Activities Act 2017

Regulations

The Regulations to support the Outer Space and High-altitude Activities Act 2017 come into force on 21 December 2017. Although the Act contains broad regulation making powers, not all of them must be used initially – they have been built into the Act to future proof it. However, certain regulations are necessary to implement the Act when it comes into force.

These include:

  • Requirements for licences and permits, particularly the information that applicants provide
  • Requirements for an orbital debris mitigation plan
  • Requirements for safety cases for launch licences, launch facility licences and (non-aircraft) high-altitude vehicles
  • The circumstances in which certain vehicles that go (or are capable of going) into high-altitude are not high-altitude vehicles (HAVs) for the purposes of the Act and hence won’t require a licence.

The approach taken in the regulations, for example to prescribing requirements for safety cases and orbital debris mitigation plans, is consistent with the outcomes-based approach taken in the Act.

Read the regulations:

The Technology Safeguards Agreement (TSA)

The TSA is a bilateral treaty between the New Zealand and United States (US) Governments.

The TSA enables commercial entities in New Zealand to import rocket launch technology and satellites from the US. Rocket Lab is the first company to come under the TSA.

Under the agreement, New Zealand agencies preserve their full existing powers and functions (e.g. border control, health and safety, and accident investigation) by way of a Side Arrangement.

The TSA adds another strand to our close and long-standing relationship with the US, and opens the door for US space businesses to consider New Zealand as a business location.

Download the TSA documents

Background on regulatory regime enabling space launches from New Zealand