Approved satellite payloads show Kiwi space industry taking off

Published: 11 October 2019

The New Zealand Space Agency has today released information about satellite payloads approved for launch by Rocket Lab from its Mahia launch complex, showing the diverse range of organisations using New Zealand for space operations.

The information released includes the payload owner by country and organisation, the purpose of the satellite and the type of satellite. Payload information will be released on a quarterly basis.

Head of the New Zealand Space Agency at the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, Dr Peter Crabtree, says New Zealand is attracting interest from around the world.

“New Zealanders are increasingly interested in our growing space sector and we are keen to keep Kiwis informed, engaged and excited about what is going on and the opportunities we are creating,” Dr Crabtree says.

“The payload applications approved for launch so far show that New Zealand is attracting high calibre customers doing cutting edge work. It is incredibly exciting for New Zealand to be playing a role in this.”

Since applications began in 2017 to 31 August this year the New Zealand Space Agency has recommended 34 payload permits for approval by the Minister for Economic Development, including 12 from governments, 13 from commercial businesses, eight from academic institutes and one from a non-profit organisation.

To date, payload permits have been issued for organisations in the United States, Australia, Mexico, France and Singapore. The majority of applications are coming from the US and this is not unexpected given our deep and long-standing security relationship and the high level of trust we have in their space operations, supported by the Technology Safeguards Agreement. 

The payload missions have primarily been for research and development, earth observation and technology demonstration and we can expect a range of innovative technologies to continue to be launched from New Zealand. 

The New Zealand Space Agency anticipates that in time the diversity of payloads will include defence and security payloads with operational functions. As well as their direct applications, such payloads often lead to major civilian applications, for example GPS was designed, built and funded by the US Air Force as a military navigation system and now supports the technology we use every day. 

Dr Crabtree says the New Zealand Space Agency supports the development of new technology that provides benefits for New Zealanders and the global community, but will always ensure it is consistent with our law. 

“New Zealand is committed to the responsible use of space and we process each application on a case by case basis to ensure it aligns with our laws and principles as a space-faring nation. We have a robust legal and regulatory system in place that allows us to maximise the opportunities of space and manage any risks.

“This means we are able to welcome applications from a wide range of customers, from space agencies to private companies to defence and security agencies of our strategic partners. There is a wealth of organisations developing cutting edge technology that can make a major difference to the lives of millions of people.”

Information on approved payloads and the assessment process is available at nzspaceagency.nz(external link).