Space partnership to pave the way for innovation


(L-R) SmartSat CEO, Professor Andy Koronios with Acting Head of the New Zealand Space Agency, Robyn Henderson (Image Supplied)

Praneeta Mahajan
Hamilton, February 7, 2024

International science and innovation connectivity is a key contributor to achieving the vision of the government’s vision of “a highly dynamic science system that enriches New Zealand, making a more visible, measurable contribution to our productivity, providing an opportunity to drive increasing excellence and the potential for impact of New Zealand science.”

The New Zealand Space Agency has recently signed a space science and technology partnership agreement with Australia’s leading space research organisation, the ‘SmartSat Co-operative Research Center.’

The agreement to collaborate on space science and technology research projects will advance space science, leading to real-world benefits for New Zealanders.

Space Minister Judith Collins has welcomed an agreement with Australia under which up to six million New Zealand dollars ($6 million) will be available to New Zealand researchers.

“This collaboration agreement between the New Zealand Space Agency and Australia’s leading space research organisation will advance space science, technology and cooperation and provide real-world benefits to New Zealanders,” Ms Collins said.

“New Zealand has an innovative space sector. This partnership presents exciting opportunities for it to grow and thrive. It is also an opportunity to work together to solve trans-Tasman challenges.”

(L-R) Robyn Henderson, New Zealand Minister for Space Judith Collins and SmartSat CEO Professor Andy Koronios after signing of the MoU (Image Supplied)

The scope of the partnership

The partnership will be an opportunity to work together to solve joint trans-Tasman challenges. Research enabled by this agreement will support efforts to promote the safe and responsible use of space, make better use of aerospace-enabled data in primary industries and advance world-leading technology to improve communications.

It builds on similar successful international space science partnerships with NASA and the German Aerospace Center (DLR).

The SmartSat Cooperative Research Centre brings together over 135 participating organisations, including national and international partners, with more than 400 researchers. With a portfolio of over 150 Research and Development projects across Advanced Communication, Connectivity and Internet of things (Iot) Technologies, Advanced Satellite Systems, Sensors and Intelligence, and Next Generation Earth Observation Data Services, SmartSat continues to contribute to building Australia’s space Research and Development capability.

The New Zealand Space Agency sits within the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment and is the lead government agency for space policy, regulation and sector development.

Supporting Research and Innovation

Under this agreement, up to $6 million will be made available from the New Zealand Government’s ‘Catalyst Fund’ to support New Zealand researchers to participate in new joint research initiatives in:

Earth Observation: covering Natural Capital, Biosecurity, Crop Health, Pasture Condition, Emission Monitoring, South Pacific Synthetic Aperture Radar and Maritime Domain Awareness. These research projects will aim to use space data to enhance decision-making for land and sea-based environments. The projects will help to unlock information about the environment and climate through observation of the Earth from high altitude and space. This data can help monitor biosecurity risks and manage crops.

Space Situational Awareness: developing new techniques to monitor the orbital environment better. One example is Satping – spacecraft position and velocity and ID from the spacecraft. Another is ground-sensor data processing and visualisations for anomalies and manoeuvre detections.

Optical Communications: joint science work on adaptive optics to explore how to coordinate a network of Australasian optical ground stations that can actively support space exploration. The projects will investigate more efficient methods for sending large volumes of data between Earth and space and support future space exploration.

SmartSat CRC Chief Executive Officer Professor Andy Koronios commented, “We are delighted to sign this agreement with the New Zealand Space Agency. This partnership will enable us to join forces and harness our resources and expertise for several important projects. Earth Observation research plays a critical role in better understanding environmental challenges that pose significant risks to both our countries. The agriculture sector is crucial for both Australia and New Zealand, and improving sustainable practices through pasture mapping, human activity, and emission monitoring will be vital for current and future food security.”

A call for proposals is planned in the coming months with the aim for successful projects to start in the second half of 2024.

The Catalyst Fund supports activities that initiate, develop and foster collaborations which take advantage of international science and innovation for New Zealand’s benefit.

Under the new agreement, SmartSat and NZSA will collaborate to develop new capabilities and expertise in the space sector through the advancement of innovation, Research and Development, and workforce development.

Praneeta Mahajan is an Indian Newslink reporter based in Hamilton.

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