NZ Space Agency works towards space strategy

Max Blenkin

New Zealand has its own space agency but still has work to do on an over-arching strategy to spell out its priorities.

NZ Space Agency works towards space strategy
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Space Agency head Peter Crabtree said his organisation was moving quickly to develop a comprehensive strategy that reflects its priorities, including sustainability, agility and collaboration with others.

Much of New Zealand’s success in space stems from firm Rocket Lab, which regularly launches from its site on the Mahia Peninsula on the country’s North Island.

Although now a US company, Rocket Lab was founded in NZ by New Zealander Peter Beck.

“Since we were going to follow on this journey with Rocket Lab and it was going to be heading towards launching once or twice a week, then as the launch state we would be taking on a lot of responsibility,” Crabtree said at the NZ embassy in Washington, where the 2019 International Astronautical Congress was held last week.

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“We needed to act as a responsible citizen of the world. We set ourselves the challenge of leading in that area.”

As well as  Rocket Lab’s launch facility, New Zealand is also the chosen location for the new LeoLabs space surveillance radar.

LeoLabs chief executive Dan Ceperley said locating the Kiwi Space Radar in New Zealand was a strategic decision for LeoLabs.

“We are excited to become a full-fledged participant in this emerging space sector. Our investment model is aligned with New Zealand’s vision of sustainable development and responsible stewardship of space,” he said.

Crabtree said the New Zealand Space Agency was holding discussions with other space agencies to lay the foundation for science and technology programs to begin participating in global space missions.

He said through those conversations, space agency leaders were beginning to think about national space missions and what New Zealand could do itself.

“We will embrace the power of small and push the frontier of what you can do with small things in space,” Crabtree said.

The New Zealand Space Agency was launched in April 2016 as a part of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, with a brief to promote the space sector and reap its economic benefits.

That placed NZ more than two years ahead of Australia.

However, Australia has a space strategy that expounds a bold vision for expansion of the space sector.

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