The Australian Government has furthered its aim of establishing the country as a major player in the international space launch market following the signing of a co-operation agreement with Russia.

The deal is aimed at clearing the way for two new ventures - Asia Pacific Space Centre and Spacelift - to establish launch facilities in Australia. Both plan to use Russian launch vehicles never before deployed outside the CIS.

Nick Minchin, Australia's minister for industry, science and resources, says the agreement will "facilitate the start of proposed space launch projects by providing for the transfer of information and technology between our two countries".

It was signed by Minchin and Russian Aviation and Space Industry director general Yuri Koptev, and addresses issues such as intellectual property, liabilities and security of technology.

Minchin says several non-Russian ventures are also interested in launching from Australia, and forecasts the space industry will contribute A$2.5 billion ($1.3 billion) to its balance of payments by 2010, creating "several thousand" new jobs.

Source: Flight International