The UK and Australia’s so-called Space Bridge, which unlocks trade barriers, academic research opportunities and investment for both sides, has been hailed “best practice” for the global space industry.
The partnership, which has reached its one-year anniversary today, seeks to collaborate on space-related activities, including sharing Earth observation data from satellites.
“The Space Bridge has cultivated strong and important ties between the UK and Australia, both of whom have rapidly growing space industries, and has catalysed investment in this growing sector,” partner at law firm Mayer Brown, Rachael O’Grady told City A.M.
“It has also unlocked new opportunities and has promoted the exchange of resources, knowledge and thought leadership between the two regions, which is such an incredibly important part of the commercialisation of space.”
Companies such as OneWeb, Spire Global UK and Satellite Applications Catapult have so far received funding from the Space Bridge, which raised £250,000 to boost businesses.
But beyond investment, the partnership will help fine-tune global space regulation and policy, O’Grady explained.
“International collaboration has always underpinned national activity in space and its relevance is expressly highlighted by the Outer Space Treaty,” she said.
“Given the numerous gaps that currently preside in the international legal framework governing this field, initiatives such as the Space Bridge are all the more laudable, as they pave the way for best practice initiatives and soft law developments, which will become increasingly relevant with the fast-paced growth in this sector.”
Linklaters associate Danny Greenland agreed, telling City A.M. that the Space Bridge and other agreements are a “bold step” towards solving the “long-standing problem” of regulation in outer space.
“The current international legal framework governing outer space is out-dated and entirely unsuitable to modern commercial space applications,” he added.
“Arrangements such as the space bridge stand out as the most promising for a to move past prohibitive cold-war era regulations towards a modern international law of outer space that is fit for purpose and adapted to the commercial and technological realities of the modern world.”
And a raft of other countries have already engaged in similar initiatives, Greenland explained.
“Russia and India committed last year to seek mutually beneficial cooperation in space exploration and human space-flight programs, the UK, Australia, the US, Japan and Ukraine, among others, are all signatories to the Artemis Accords, an American-led program focussed on returning humans to the Moon by 2025, and they all participate in the International Space Exploration and Coordination Group focussed on sharing knowledge in support of long-range human space exploration,” he said.
UK Space Agency boss, Dr Paul Bate added: “The Space Bridge is a prime example of how we can join forces with our partners to catalyse investment and help meet the UK’s increased ambitions in space.
“International collaboration is a key pillar of the UK National Space Strategy and we are proud to be working with our Australian colleagues to leverage resources and opportunities from across government, industry, academia, and private investors – driving forward this exciting initiative.”