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SmartSat signs landmark deal with NZ Space Agency

Australia’s SmartSat CRC research collaboration has agreed a landmark deal to work with the New Zealand Space Agency.

Funded by the federal government, SmartSat CRC is a collaboration between universities and research organisations that partner with industry.

It will now expand its scope to work with Kiwi organisations on projects including Earth observation, situational awareness, and optical communications to support space exploration.

The deal – signed in Wellington by the acting head of the New Zealand Space Agency (NZSA) – comes alongside a commitment from the New Zealand government to support projects with NZ$6 million.


Enrico Palermo, head of Australia’s space agency, said the news reaffirms the two countries’ strong partnership.

“Not only do our nations share a unique geographic position, we are also aligned when it comes to using space technology and innovation to improve life here on Earth,” he said.

“This Australian Space Agency is proud to have worked with SmartSat CRC and the New Zealand Space Agency to set up this agreement, which builds on Australian government investments in capabilities such as optical ground stations.

“Space is a global endeavour, and by sharing knowledge and resources, we can create outcomes that benefit both our nations.”


The new research initiatives will include:

Earth observation: covering natural capital, biosecurity, crop health, pasture condition, emission monitoring, South Pacific synthetic aperture radar and maritime domain awareness.

Space situational awareness: developing new techniques to monitor the orbital environment better.

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.

Professor Andy Koronios, SmartSat CRC’s chief executive, said, “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.”

SmartSat CRC has worked on a variety of pioneering projects and now includes 135 participating organisations and more than 400 researchers.

For example, Space Connect reported in September how SmartSat would invest in a new research project that aims to use space technology to manage Australian bushfires.

The project will bring together the Australian National University (ANU) and EOS Space Systems to deliver “advanced manufacturing technologies” for the existing OzFuel instrument, a key payload of the Earth Observation Resilience satellite mission. It’s unique because it’s specifically adapted to understand Australian eucalypt forests.

The announcement came alongside a pledge by the state government to invest in a new space hub and a separate investment in situational awareness. The joint projects will take SmartSat and the ACT’s joint investment in the state to more than $7 million.

Adam Thorn

Adam Thorn

Adam is a journalist who has worked for more than 40 prestigious media brands in the UK and Australia. Since 2005, his varied career has included stints as a reporter, copy editor, feature writer and editor for publications as diverse as Fleet Street newspaper The Sunday Times, fashion bible Jones, media and marketing website Mumbrella as well as lifestyle magazines such as GQ, Woman’s Weekly, Men’s Health and Loaded. He joined Momentum Media in early 2020 and currently writes for Australian Aviation and World of Aviation.

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