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Elevating New Zealand’s Space Security

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The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) has been actively exploring space to provide vital information for national security. Space-based infrastructure is crucial for various services that New Zealanders rely on, such as weather observations, banking and financial transactions, and the observation of land and seas. The increasing reliance on space-based technologies for critical infrastructure and essential services has highlighted the importance of space security.

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To bolster New Zealand’s space capabilities and promote the peaceful use of outer space, the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) Base Auckland has hosted a four-week course. This programme attracted participants from Australia and New Zealand and focused on creating Space Domain Awareness (SDA) products using commercial sensing and data analytics tools. The course aimed to enhance the participants’ understanding of space security and the role of space-based technologies in national security.

The course forms part of the Space Programme’s mandate to develop and maintain New Zealand’s space capabilities, ensuring that the country remains at the forefront of space technology. One key aspect of the training is to equip qualified Joint Commercial Operations (JCO) personnel with the necessary skills to contribute effectively to three ‘cells’ of analysts. These analysts work shifts to monitor military satellite activity, with New Zealand and Australia comprising the Pacific cell.

Flight Lieutenant Dave Evans, the Regional Coordinator for the JCO Pacific Cell, expressed excitement about collaborating with Australia to offer the course. He highlighted the unique opportunity it presents for students from both countries to learn from top instructors in the field and gain valuable hands-on experience in commercial SDA operations.

One aspect of the course is its inclusivity, open to personnel from various trades. Participants ranged from loadmasters to maritime logistics officers and individuals from tech trades. This diversity reflects the broad spectrum of skills needed in space technology.

Commercial companies worldwide use sensors such as radars and telescopes to track satellites from launch. The data collected is then used to generate final products for users across different nations. The course at RNZAF Base Auckland aims to train participants in leveraging this data effectively to enhance space domain awareness.

A team of experienced instructors from the NZDF Space Programme leads the training. These instructors have been specially trained to deliver the curriculum, which was developed in partnership with US experts. The New Zealand instructor team is supported by a US instructor who provides additional insights into the latest developments in JCO and oversees the assessment and certification elements of the course.

Plans are to conduct another course in September, potentially including Japanese personnel. This initiative underscores the international collaboration and knowledge sharing that characterise space technology.

Director Space Programme Wing Commander, Matt Tristram, emphasised the importance of building strong partnerships with allies and partners. He described the course as a significant milestone in demonstrating New Zealand’s ability to deliver interchangeable training with the United States. The collaboration between New Zealand, Australia, and other nations reflects a shared commitment to advancing space capabilities and ensuring the peaceful use of outer space.

Further, in addition to the course programme, the NZDF works closely with local industry and international partners to understand changing technologies, manage risks, and seize opportunities in space. This collaboration ensures that New Zealand remains at the forefront of space technology and can effectively contribute to global efforts in space security.

Matt believes that the course at RNZAF Base Auckland was a significant step forward in enhancing New Zealand’s space capabilities. By training personnel in the latest technologies and methodologies, “The NZDF ensures that the country remains at the forefront of space technology and can effectively contribute to global efforts in space security,” he affirmed.


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