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Enhancing space exploration in New Zealand

Space is of immense strategic importance around the world, and New Zealand’s unique location and conditions make it an attractive choice for an increasing amount of space activity. New Zealand has some of the largest selection of launch angles (azimuths) for rocket launches in the world. Their remote location is also an advantage, giving clear skies and seas, and relatively low levels of air traffic.

This opens up opportunities for frequent launches — a game-changer in a world where data captured by satellites is in high demand — as well as testing new technologies. Improved connectivity and resource management are now more possible than ever.

In the last few weeks, New Zealand has signed a space treaty over Moon exploration and resources, a Canterbury spit has been designated as a rocket launch site, and a New Zealand satellite launch service has been tasked with designing two-photon spacecraft for a 2024 scientific mission to Mars.

The industry is currently worth $1.75 billion according to a report commissioned by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment – those figures relate to 2018 – 2019 and it’s only been growing since then. It employs about 5,000 people and another 7,000 in support services. The 240 space-related companies paint a broad brush. They range from dark skies tourism to satellite data collection, launching payloads and a re-usable space-plane to take satellites into orbit – from Oamaru.

A massive space radar in Naseby is tracking satellite debris; a world-first passenger transport trial of a self-flying, all-electric air taxi is underway in Canterbury; and Air New Zealand has partnered with NASA to collect data for global climate science models. Satellite data collection will assist vintners in inspecting their grapes, the defence force in patrolling its territorial waters, and forecasting solar storms that could knock out the electricity grid.

The Otago Museum’s director and astronomer stated that access to space is becoming easier and less expensive, which means that business opportunities are expanding and that there are business opportunities where leading Kiwis are willing to pay big bucks for this investment. He also stated that it is a good thing since these are high-tech, high-paying jobs that speak well for the country’s future.

An article by OpenGov Asia reported that New Zealand’s space sector is worth over USD 1 billion and the country’s space manufacturing industry generates around USD 180 million in revenue each year. The government’s economic priorities include supporting firms to make the most of international connections. The Artemis Accords enable the country to prepare for future economic and trade opportunities as well as meeting foreign policy objectives.

To further boost the country’s space programme, Immigration New Zealand said 156 foreigners were granted border exemptions as part of a government-approved programme for an aerospace company in New Zealand.

The aerospace company had focused on bringing in essential workers for its launches, who would usually stay for two weeks after completing managed isolation. For every launch, they bring in a small number of experts to do a range of launch-specific tasks. Satellites are incredibly complex machines and they require a lot of work to prepare for launch, that can only really be done by highly skilled experts, said the company.

The global space economy is a multi-billion-dollar business that’s evolving rapidly due to advances in technology — such as those that lower the costs of building satellites. People rely on data from satellites to make the world a better and safer place and to provide services that all can benefit from, including banking, transport, telecommunications, security, and climate change monitoring.

At this point, New Zealand’s goal is to advance areas where it already has strengths, such as agri-technology, hazard management, oceanography, and meteorology, by using and applying space-based data. They also plan to expand their satellite design and manufacturing capabilities, as well as their space science, technology, and engineering research.

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