Government invests $3 million in NZ space technology, universities big winners

The Government is investing $3 million in the development of various space technologies, including an alternative environmentally friendly propulsion system and ocean and coastal monitoring satellites.

Source: Breakfast

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment funded six New Zealand research projects, with $500,000 going to each, through its Catalyst Fund, which supports strategic partnerships in satellite and space vehicle technologies.

International Science Partnerships Manager Simon Rae said the investment will help to develop the capability of New Zealand’s space sector.

“These partnerships enable New Zealand’s researchers to gain access to a wider range of experience and resources than they can currently access domestically,” Mr Rae said.

Recipients will work with leading international space organisations, including LeoLabs, the University of New South Wales Canberra, the German Aerospace Centre and the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency.

University of Auckland researchers were big winners, earning $1 million in total for two initiatives: a small-satellite radar to monitor New Zealand’s oceans and a space satellite mission design and control project.

Meanwhile, the University of Canterbury received funding to develop nano-satellites for protein crystallisation, which is used to purify proteins, making them easier to study in fields like medicine.

The Victoria University of Wellington received funding for managing the excess heat of superconducting magnets in small satellites. Superconducting magnets must be cooled to cryogenic temperatures during use in places like MRI machines and particle accelerators.

Rocket company Dawn Aerospace will use its funding to research the development of environmentally friendly satellite propulsion systems to replace hydrazine, which is toxic and can cause damage to the central nervous system and result in seizures and tumours.

Swarm NZ Limited will be researching small-satellite control systems to avoid collisions and orbital debris.

The six successful projects were recommended from a pool of 29 proposals by international and domestic experts.

The projects are expected to begin later this month.