- Catalyst: Strategic – New Zealand-DLR Joint Research Programme December 2020
- Catalyst: Strategic – New Zealand-China joint research partnerships 2020/2021
- Catalyst: Strategic – New Zealand-Singapore Data Science Research Programme
- Catalyst: Strategic – New Zealand-Singapore Future Foods Research Programme
- Catalyst: Strategic - MethaneSAT atmospheric science project
- Catalyst: Strategic – New Zealand-China joint research partnerships 2019/2020
- Catalyst: Strategic – The Cyber Security Research Programme
- Catalyst: Strategic – Space 2019
- Catalyst: Strategic – NZ-Korea joint research partnerships
- Catalyst: Strategic – a collaborative biomedical science research programme with China
- Catalyst: Strategic – the New Zealand-China Research Collaboration Centres
- Catalyst: Strategic – New Zealand-Germany Green Hydrogen research partnerships
- Catalyst Fund
Catalyst: Strategic – New Zealand-DLR Joint Research Programme December 2020
MBIE has announced the 12 successful proposals Catalyst: Strategic – New Zealand-DLR Joint Research Programme December 2020
About this Programme
MBIE and DLR signed a Letter of Intent (LoI) at the International Astronautical Congress in Bremen in 2018 to enable joint research collaboration. MBIE invited proposals for feasibility studies under Catalyst: Strategic for feasibility studies with the German Aerospace Center (DLR) in the areas of propulsion, space communications and Synthetic Aperture Radar technologies.
|Proposal title||Organisation||Recommended funding amount|
|Optical Communication Ground Station Feasibility Study||University of Auckland||$75,000.00|
|Development of a deployable Synthetic Aperture Radar antenna concept for nanosatellites||University of Auckland||$75,000.00|
|Long term quantum memories in satellite quantum communications networks||University of Otago||$75,000.00|
|Synthetic aperture radar measurements of Antarctic sea ice||Bodeker Scientific Limited||$75,000.00|
|An eye in the southern sky - sensor design for high altitude pseudo satellites||Kea Aerospace Limited||$75,000.00|
|Advanced Object Detectability in a Water Clutter Environment Using InSAR||Moller Pollard Consulting||$74,948.00|
|Measuring the micro-thrust of small-scale electric propulsors||The Research Trust of Victoria University of Wellington||$70,328.00|
|Study of advanced N2O-based green propulsion systems for large satellite and deep space applications||Dawn Aerospace Limited||$75,000.00|
|Measuring the Earth Surface using Small-Satellite Synthetic Aperture Radar: Feasibility Study||University of Auckland||$73,972.00|
|Detecting Sparse Ice in the Southern Ocean
|Magnetic Propulsion - Deceleration and Shielding of Spacecraft||Argo Navis Limited||$75,000.00|
|Fibre Composites in Space and Reentry Environments||University of Auckland||$74,999.00|
Public Statements of funded projects (MBIE-administered)
Optical Communication Ground Station Feasibility Study, University of Auckland
The next evolution in global telecommunications will be based on optical communications between Earth and space. This project will investigate the best location in New Zealand to place a state-of-the-art robotic telescope and observatory building to provide a ground station for optical communications. Apart from the increase in transmission speed, optical communications will lessen the dependence on the increasingly crowded and noisy radio frequency spectrum for global communications.
We will be working with partners at Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt institutes in Oberpfaffenhofen and Deutsches Raumfahrt-Kontrollzentrum (GSOC). Our DLR team members have designed, constructed optical communication ground station observatories in Europe and conduct space communication research and development.
New Zealand offers an advantageous geographical location for a node in a proposed Australia-New Zealand network of optical communications ground stations. There are a number of potential sites in the country where an optical communication ground station could be placed for maximum performance and which also provides local STEM and Vision Mātauranga outreach engagement opportunities.
Development of a deployable Synthetic Aperture Radar antenna concept for nanosatellites , University of Auckland
Satellites offer a unique vantage point to monitor large portions of the Earth’s surface, land and water, and it's atmosphere, enabling the observation of a variety of phenomena and activities that are taking place.
Most satellite monitoring is performed using optical images which require the observation taking place in daylight and clear skies, thus limiting significantly their application. In addition as satellites orbit around the planet, there is a trade-off between the orbit altitude, the area that can be observed, the resolution of the imagery and how frequently a satellite can see (revisit) the same location to detect changes of relevant parameters (e.g. evolution of deforestation, or traffic of maritime vessels).
The capability to monitor these phenomena, and the Earth’s environment in general (its vegetation, water bodies, ice caps, atmosphere etc) is crucial to ensure sustainability, and fulfil our duty to preserve the environment - te taiao and kaitiakitanga.
Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) enables imaging of the Earth’s surface independently of lighting conditions or cloud coverage thus increasing our capacity to monitor relevant phenomena. In addition, the technology that we are developing during this project will be able to fly on small and relatively cheap satellites that in turn enable constellations of satellites, able to increase the frequency of the observations.
As the resolution of SAR imagery is directly proportional to the size of the space born radar antenna, the key challenge is to develop antennas that can be folded and stowed in a small volume during launch, to enable the use of small and cheap satellites, and then be deployed once in space.
The objective of this project is to produce a viable concept design for a deployable SAR antenna, maximizing the combination of applicable key performance indicators for both SAR performance amnd deployable mechanism.
Long term quantum memories in satellite quantum communications networks, University of Otago
In a world where large scale quantum computation is practical, currently used cryptographic approaches will no longer be secure. A global quantum communication network provides a solution.
This project will investigate the technologies required for long lived quantum memories to be integrated into future satellite quantum communication networks.
A quantum communications network's key function is the distribution of quantum entanglement between it’s nodes. This allows secure communication between the nodes without having to trust any part of the network. The distributed entanglement will also improve ultraprecise measurements such as global networks of atomic clocks and VLBI (very long baseline interferometry) telescopes. The need for such a quantum network is made more immediate by cheap data storage – caching encrypted data means that the quantum computers of tomorrow will be able to decode the sensitive communications of today.
The simplest way to distribute entanglement is to generate entangled photon pairs and steer them to the desired end points. However loss in the communication channel or intermittent links require the use of quantum repeaters which have at their heart quantum memories. Rare earth quantum memories with record breaking six hour storage times have been demonstrated. Very large bandwidths have been demonstrated and being solid state they have the potential for very high capacity. However in order to be of use for satellite based networks, compatible sources of entanglement and signal routing will be required. We will develop a roadmap for these technologies. This will leverage world leading expertise: from NZ comes expertise in rare-earth quantum memories and nonlinear processes in optical whispering gallery mode resonators, from Germany expertise in satellite quantum communication and entanglement sources.
As a result of the project, satellite quantum communication networks will be one step closer and industry in both countries will be well placed to contribute.
Synthetic aperture radar measurements of Antarctic sea ice, Bodeker Scientific Limited
Each autumn, the sea around Antarctica freezes over. By spring, the area of ocean covered by sea ice exceeds the size of the continent. This continental apron of sea ice both affects the climate and is affected by the climate. Sea ice acts as a barrier between the atmosphere and ocean, limiting the transfer of heat, light, and gases such as carbon dioxide. Sea ice reflects incoming solar radiation back to space, limiting solar heating of the darker underlying ocean. When sea ice forms, it creates a dense brine which, as it sinks, drives circulation cells in the ocean. Sea ice responds to changes in winds blowing over its surface, the currents and temperature of the ocean underneath it, and ocean wave activity which can break up large plates of sea ice. These factors affecting sea ice are, in turn, affected by changes in global climate.
Given its importance in the climate system, it is essential that we understand the processes that affect sea ice formation and can simulate those processes in global climate models. Such process understanding relies on accurate measurements of sea ice concentration (SIC), especially in regions of sea ice formation. Given its inaccessibility and vastness (20 million km2) measurements of SIC are best done from satellite-based instruments. While space-based passive microwave radiometers have been used to measure Antarctic SIC, they are ill-suited for measuring the thin sea ice occurring in ice formation regions. Furthermore, their coarse spatial resolution prevents them from resolving surface features that can be used to determine the direction of ice movement. Synthetic aperture radar avoids these short-comings. Our goal is to seek opportunities to improve the quality of synthetic aperture radar measurements of Antarctic SIC that will form a roadmap for future bilateral funding applications with our DLR collaborators.
An eye in the southern sky - sensor design for high altitude pseudo satellites, Kea Aerospace Limited
The Antarctic is a fundamental part of the global climate system. There is mounting concern that its ice sheets will significantly contribute to increased sea level rise and open questions remain about changes to its sea ice cover with global ramifications. Satellite technologies have allowed great advancements in our knowledge of these processes. Although they can provide near-global coverage, the amount and the quality of data that can be collected in a given area is limited by their satellite orbits.
High altitude pseudo satellites (HAPS) are solar powered unmanned aerial vehicles that operate for weeks at altitudes around 20,000m. HAPS in the form of fixed wing aircraft are operating with high flexibility and are not constrained by orbits. Operating in a sweet spot for aerial imaging and remote sensing they can play a pivotal role in filling these knowledge gaps. In addition the platform will be a unique tool for other applications in this remote region of the planet. The Southern Ocean and Ross Dependency fall heavily within Aotearoa/New Zealand’s sphere of influence yet the ability to carry out important tasks in the region remain restricted given its isolation. The Ross Sea is one of the last untouched marine habitats on earth and recent legislation has protected it, yet existing technology does not permit consistent monitoring of this large region for management purposes. The area also suffers from heavily restricted search and rescue capability which a HAPS platform could improve. The HAPS platform, if desired, could also revolutionise observational ability within New Zealand itself with applications across multiple sectors including, geoscience, agriculture, forestry and urban planning.
Advanced Object Detectability in a Water Clutter Environment Using InSAR, Moller Pollard Consulting
Maritime domain awareness (MDA) has relied on spaceborne remote sensing many decades. Amongst these, synthetic aperture radar (SAR) is capable of high resolution mapping which can be valuable for characterising dynamic regions and detection of “features” of interest: e.g. the presence of vessels, wakes, pollutant spills, coastal dynamics, search and rescue, marine-debris, sea-ice, and fresh-water outflow. However, detection, characterization, and ideally classification and tracking of objects or features in the complex maritime environment can be challenging and fundamental limitations present with respect to resolution, coverage and measurement sensitivity.
This initial effort will investigate new SAR concepts aimed at advancing detection and characterization of obscured, or physically small features in a large water expanse. We will assess electromagnetic scattering and correlation properties to aid in an oceanic and inland water for SAR sensor/mission design. In particular we will look at possibilities of using mm-wave frequencies which may enable enhanced object/clutter contrast with relatively small (single platform) architectures.
The DLR’s Microwave and Radar Institute (IHR) are world leaders in end-to-end SAR (as demonstrated by SRTM and TanDEM-X), and have an active development programme in mm-wave SAR (airborne Ka-band sensor). IHR is to propose a frequency-scanned Ka-band SAR to realize wide-swath coverage without compromising resolution and sensitivity. Such an approach could be transformative for SAR MDA. The mission concepts considered will be premised upon this capability.
The foundational study will result in strawman mission design(s) for orbital (e.g., Rocket Lab’s Photon small satellite) and suborbital (e.g. Kea Aerospace’s High Altitude Pseudo Satellite (HAPS)) platforms. A feasibility assessment will survey industry capabilities and identify technology hurdles. The result will be recommendations for key technology and/or demonstrations to be achieved in the next phase including engaging with partners with a primary focus across New Zealand and German industry.
Measuring the micro-thrust of small-scale electric propulsors, The Research Trust of Victoria University of Wellington
The future of space travel depends on the availability of efficient propulsion. The force required for movement in space is presently typically generated using chemical thrusters, which require a large amount of propellant to perform ambitious manoeuvers such as orbital transfers and insertions. Electric thrusters could potentially enable cargo ships for space settlement and other large mass, long distance missions due to the high exhaust speeds of their propellant gases and consequent ability to efficiently transport large payloads over large distances. The main drawback of electric propulsion is its low thrust which results in long transfer times as well as low energy efficiency in the low-power regime. We will address this deficiency through the use of powerful electromagnets based on superconducting technology. This technology enables the generation of high magnetic fields within the lightweight envelope of a coil making it perfect for aerospace applications.
Although the possibility of using superconductors for space applications has been recognised already during the first Space Age in the 1960's, early superconducting materials required extremely low temperatures (-260 C) to operate which necessitated sophisticated and impractical cooling systems even in space. The relatively recent development of high-temperature superconductors allows operation at temperatures sustainable on board a spacecraft. This rejuvenates the idea of superconducting space thrusters. However, to fully understand and demonstrate their potential, superconducting electric thrusters must first undergo characterisation in ground-based facilities where the space environment is recreated. This project will form a basis for future tests of superconducting electric thrusters through the development of thrust balances sensitive to the expected thrust levels and capable of operating in the vicinity of high magnetic fields and cryogenic installations. It will also connect the New Zealand team developing the thrusters to the global leaders in conventional electric propulsion systems design and testing.
Study of advanced N2O-based green propulsion systems for large satellite and deep space applications, Dawn Aerospace Limited
Hydrazine has been the main fuel used in orbital and launcher propulsion systems for 50+ years. The technical heritage and industry-use of this fuel is extensive, but it is deadly toxic and extremely bad for the environment. According to Airbus, hydrazine represents a $2B per annum problem for the European space industry as the EU likely to ban its use soon. There are no viable alternatives that meet customer needs. Dawn Aerospace is fast on track to implement a solution to this problem, having demonstrated a high chance for commercial success.
Replacement fuels, like ADN (LMP-103S) or HAN, were once considered promising substitutes. Due to significant design and operational problems, large manufacturers are not selecting them as viable replacements. Dawn has developed technology that uses commonly available fuels to not just replace hydrazine, but significantly enhances customer capabilities too.
Dawn first developed safe, reliable and affordable propulsion technology for the nanosatellite industry, an industry that is rapidly growing and unable to use Hydrazine-based systems. Dawn’s technology is quickly gaining international traction and exposure to the wider satellite industry and NASA, but there are several technical barriers currently halting broad industry adaption. This project aims to take away those barriers.
With pressing interest from space agencies and the world’s largest satellite manufacturers, Dawn’s CubeDrive and SatDrive propulsion technology has the most potential to solve this looming problem and become the space industry’s most viable hydrazine alternative.
Measuring the Earth Surface using Small-Satellite Synthetic Aperture Radar: Feasibility Study, University of Auckland
Long-term monitoring of the earth surface is important for detecting ground subsidence and movement. This knowledge is important in geologically active regions, such as New Zealand, and for monitoring human-induced deformations, e.g., surface and underground mining.
Synthetic aperture radar (SAR) mounted on satellites can provide this data, however, for accurate measurements a time-series of repeated measurements over the regions of interest are required. Repeated measurements are difficult to schedule on large existing SAR satellites.
To address this problem, a research team from the University of Auckland the German Aerospace Centre (DLR) will examine the feasibility of using SAR on small-satellites to measure ground movements.
Detecting Sparse Ice in the Southern Ocean, Oceanum Limited
Navigational safety must consider the presence of sea ice and icebergs, and to meet this need various government agencies undertake daily monitoring of polar waters at a spatial resolution of around 25 km. The limit of detection is approximately the 15% concentration of ice on the sea surface. Other high resolution satellite microwave data (SAR) are used to find regions of open water within dense sea ice, primarily for ship routing. However, neither technique is specifically designed to detect and quantify the sparse ice present in open water. Ship observations confirm there are appreciable amounts of ice in various densities and sizes beyond the 15% concentration zone, and this presents a very real hazard to shipping - particularly during stormy conditions that characterise the Southern Ocean. Here, the hazard zone may extend several hundred km beyond the 15% concentration contour.
Our collaboration with DLR seeks to improve navigational safety by extending the coverage of ice monitoring and refining the spatial resolution to produce meaningful statistics on sparse ice. To that aim, we ultimately seek to develop an operational pipeline that provides user-friendly access to advanced products for ice monitoring using the fusion of different information and data sources. The feasibility of that aim will be examined by the project, and we will assess passive/active microwave, optical and infrared satellite sensors, SAR from aircraft, and radar data from ship borne sensors, along with gridded numerical oceanographic model data.
We anticipate that improved navigational safety will mitigate risk within NZ's search and rescue domain, and be of benefit to all Southern Ocean users. The range and operability of the NZ Navy will be extended, which improves our ability to meet international fisheries patrol obligations. The ability to accurately quantify open ocean ice dynamics will allow new and improved understandings to be made.
Magnetic Propulsion - Deceleration and Shielding of Spacecraft, Argo Navis Limited
Atmospheric entry is one of the more challenging aspects of spaceflight, both in Low Earth Orbit and around the solar system. Spacecraft travel at speeds of many kilometres per second relative to their target planet and require some means of deceleration in order to land safely. Our research focuses on the application of high-temperature superconducting (HTS) electromagnets to two magnetic propulsion techniques - magnetoshells and magnetic heat shields.
We bring together aerodynamic and aerothermal expertise (DLR), HTS magnet development expertise (Robinson Research Institute) and flight systems/propulsion expertise (Argo Navis Aerospace) with the aim of drastically increasing the technology readiness level (TRL) of both magnetoshells and magnetic heat-shields. Our efforts will begin with feasibility studies with the aim of eventually moving to flight experiments.
Such outcomes could revolutionize both Earth re-entry and interplanetary exploration through low-cost, low-mass reusable re-entry and aerocapture systems which require almost no propellant.
Fibre Composites in Space and Reentry Environments, University of Auckland
Aotearoa New Zealand is a world-leader in the manufacture of high-performance fibre-reinforced polymer composites, with users ranging from America’s Cup racing yachts to the Electron rocket launched by Rocket Lab. Composites have advantages over metals, in terms of strength, light weight, corrosion resistance, design flexibility and durability. These properties make them attractive for space applications where launch weight is a primary concern. However, what happens to composite parts in the space environment and when they reenter the Earth’s atmosphere is not well understood.
Te Pūnaha Ātea – Auckland Space Institute (TPA) and the Centre for Advanced Composite Materials (CACM) will work with partners at the Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR) in Köln, Germany to test a range of composite parts in simulated orbital environments and reentry plasmas. TPA has equipment for testing parts in simulated launch conditions as well as the vacuum of orbit. Our partner (the Supersonic and Hypersonic Technologies Department) at the DLR in Köln has unique facilities that can replicate the temperatures and heat fluxes experienced by vehicles returning to Earth, as well as deep experience in testing aerospace materials. This group has been involved in most of the European projects related to reentry technologies and demise testing on metallic and composite components of space debris fragments.
The results of this work will open new markets for high-value composite structures fabricated in New Zealand, and provide the information required for possible reuse, or responsible disposal of space hardware. Reducing the harms of space debris is part of our kaitiakitanga of the Earth and space environment