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New Zealand Joins Space Mission to Combat Climate Change

UK Space Delegation in Singapore

New Zealand has joined its first official space mission as a country to combat climate change and the mission control centre will be located in New Zealand.

According to a recent press release, the Government announced it would contribute NZ$ 26 million towards MethaneSAT, which is a state-of-the-art satellite designed to detect global methane emissions with unprecedented accuracy.

The Initiative

The mission is being led by United States-based NGO Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and its subsidiary MethaneSAT LLC, who have signed a partnership agreement with the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE).

MBIE’s General Manager of Science, Innovation and International and Head of the New Zealand Space Agency, explained that MethaneSAT is exactly the kind of science that New Zealand should be investing in.

New Zealand will gain three key benefits by investing. These are:

  1. It will show global leadership by investing in a science mission that will directly help to fight climate change.
  2. Kiwi researchers are given the opportunity to join a cutting-edge climate science mission, which will see them working alongside the world’s best climate scientists and aerospace experts.
  3. Important capability in the country’s growing space sector is being built.

New Zealand already makes significant investments in climate science and in research to reduce domestic greenhouse gas emissions.

These efforts will be built on by working with the US-based NGO.

Who are Involved?

The NGO’s Chief Executive explained that the New Zealand Government is an ideal mission partner because both parties share values, which underpin the mission’s purpose.

The NGO is a highly professional organisation with a proven track record in conducting excellent science to inform evidence-based decision making by governments and industry.

They share values related to environmental leadership, transparency, accountability, and a commitment to performing excellent research.

The Head of New Zealand’s Space Agency shared that the country’s space sector has a spirit of innovative thinking, which guided the decision to partner with the NGO.

The NGO is following global best practice in mission planning and had brought together a high-calibre team, with deep space sector expertise, to deliver and oversee the mission.

While the company and its subsidiary are initially focused on collecting data about methane emissions from the oil and gas industry, New Zealand will work with the company to consider how data might be used to investigate and potentially lead an atmospheric science component of the mission related to agricultural methane emissions.

MethaneSAT is scheduled to launch in 2022.

The location of the New Zealand-based mission control centre and New Zealand’s role in the launch, as well as the science components of the mission will be confirmed in the coming months.

New Zealand continues to strengthen its space sector. OpenGov Asia recently reported on New Zealand funds innovative space tech projects.

Six New Zealand research projects have received NZ$ 500,000 each from the MBIE’s competitive Catalyst: Strategic Space fund.

The funding will support the six recipients in partnering with leading international space organisations to develop new space-related technologies, accessing valuable data and support.

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