From Australia and the United States sign historic space treaty:

In Washington this morning the Turnbull Government signed a treaty with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), reaffirming a commitment made by Australia and the United States of America more than 50 years ago to collaborate on space exploration.

Ambassador Joe Hockey signed the historic Space Tracking Treaty on behalf of Australia, with the Acting Administrator of NASA, Robert Lightfoot Jr, signing on behalf of the USA at a ceremony at the Australian Embassy in Washington D.C.

The Space Tracking Treaty covers civil space facilities owned by NASA and located within Australia, including the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex (CDSCC) at Tidbinbilla, as well as facilities in Western Australia and the Northern Territory.

There is of course a large, critical, and historic collaboration between Australia and the US on space matters, including the Deep Space Network. Is this a renewal, or a change in understanding? Is it related to the imminent formation of the Australian Space Agency (see Open letter to the Australian Government: why Australia can no longer afford not to have a space agency and SIAA White Paper: Advancing Australia in Space), or perhaps the 50th anniversary of the Outer Space Treaty?

I'm guessing that the signatories mentioned; director of NASA and Australian ambassador are symbolic - that the treaty proper is between two countries, not two space agencies, and other agreements in the form of contracts are used between the agencies.

  • $\begingroup$ As it says "reaffirming a commitment made 50 years ago" this is a renewal... $\endgroup$
    – Solar Mike
    Commented Oct 18, 2017 at 12:09

1 Answer 1


The treaty appears to be called "The Agreement concerning Space Vehicle Tracking and Communications Facilities"

Here's a summary page from this pdf.

  1. 2010 will mark the 50 th anniversary of treaty-level cooperation between the US and Australia in space vehicle tracking. Australia's cooperation with the US on space-related activities began in 1957 with the establishment of facilities at Woomera in South Australia, to track US satellites. This was broadened to include additional scientific facilities set up by the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in 1960.

  2. Since then, the space vehicle tracking and communication relationship between Australia and the US has been the subject of a succession of Agreements and Exchanges of Notes between the two countries. Under these treaties, NASA has spent in excess of $A610 million on space-related activities in Australia since 1960. Significant scientific and economic benefits have been derived from activities conducted under the Agreement, especially through encouraging collaboration between Australian and NASA scientists. The treaty action under consideration further amends and extends the 1980 Program Agreement, which provides for the establishment, operation and maintenance of NASA facilities in Australia that will provide commensurate benefits for Australia.

From what I can tell, the original agreement has been modified over the decades by the exchange of "diplomatic notes" between the countries. (An example of these exchanges can be found here.)

If there is a current document containing the complete, updated agreement with all the changes, I was unable to find it. The State Department's Jan 1, 2017 Treaties in Force document lists this about the treaty:

Agreement concerning space vehicle tracking and communications facilities.

Exchange of notes at Canberra May 29, 1980. Entered into force May 29, 1980; effective February 26, 1980.
32 UST 1417; TIAS 9781; 1217 UNTS 237

Amendment and Extensions:

July 21, 1981 (TIAS 10198)

January 17 and May 2, 1990 (TIAS 12413)

August 4, 2000 (2171 UNTS 139)

February 25, 2010

August 19, 2011 and January 11, 2012

November 18 and 21, 2013

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    $\begingroup$ Assuming that Australia's new space agency will at some point have spacecraft in space, Australia will become a consumer of space tracking data, not only a provider. That may require some rewriting. $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Commented Oct 18, 2017 at 14:44

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