- 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 partnership
- Catalyst Fund
Catalyst: Strategic – Space 2019
MBIE has announced the 6 successful proposals for the $3 million Catalyst Space investment in satellite and space vehicle technologies.
Catalyst: Strategic – Space 2019 (Catalyst Space) accelerates the development of space sector capability in New Zealand by building complementary partnerships with leading international space organisations, enabling New Zealand's researchers to gain access to a wider range of experience and resources than they can domestically.
The funded projects are:
|The University of Auckland||Space satellite mission design and control|
|The University of Auckland||Small-satellite radar to monitor NZ’s oceans and coasts|
|The University of Canterbury||Taking biochemistry to new heights: developing nanosatellites for protein crystallisation|
|Dawn Aerospace||Development of environmentally friendly, high performance satellite propulsion systems for replacement of toxic hydrazine|
|Swarm NZ Limited||Advanced small satellite control systems for collision avoidance and orbital debris mitigation|
|Victoria University of Wellington||Thermal management of cryogenic superconducting magnets in small satellites|
The 6 funded projects involve a significant degree of novel research across a wide range of fields. Researchers will have the opportunity to develop critical competencies alongside world-class partners in teams with strong established track records. These international partners include; LeoLabs, the University of New South Wales Canberra, the German Aerospace Centre (DLR), and the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).
The investment totals $3 million over three years. The 6 projects were recommended by a combined panel of international and domestic experts, and will each receive up to $500,000 (excluding GST). We received 29 proposals in total from a wide variety of organisations, showing a promising foundation for future initiatives.
Catalyst Space is MBIE’s second dedicated investment in space research, following on from the Minister of Research, Science and Innovation’s 7 November announcement that New Zealand would commit $26 million to partner in the MethaneSAT satellite mission.
Catalyst: Strategic is one of the 4 funding streams within the Catalyst Fund. The Catalyst Fund supports activities that initiate, develop and foster collaborations building on international science and innovation for New Zealand’s benefit.
|12 November 2019||Successful proposals announced|
|November/December 2019||Projects begin|
Public statements of funded proposals
Space satellite mission design and control - The University of Auckland
New Zealand’s capacity to design, build, test satellites and satellite hardware needs to be matched with high-quality training in satellite mission design and operation. Satellite mission design is a discipline unto itself – figuring out how achieve your scientific or commercial goals in space requires input from end-users, funders, scientists, engineers and mission control operatives. Endless rounds of document sharing and video conferencing is not the way to design a coherent mission. What does work, is getting everyone into the same room and not letting them out until a mission design has been finalised that will hit the mission goals. Once on-orbit, the satellite owners then need to schedule and task their spacecraft and sensors, download data and undertake station-keeping manoeuvres. These non-trivial tasks require a state-of-art mission control centre.
The Australian National Concurrent Design Facility (ANCDF) is located at the University of New South Wales in Canberra and has all the facilities required to enable a concurrent design team to finalise a satellite mission, including the necessary mission control centre. All the hardware, software and technical support and guidance is supplied to a mission design team to complete their task. All mission goals, concerns, potential technical difficulties, operational challenges and funding constraints are laid on one metaphorical table at the same time and the solution sought by the mission design team. This proposal will establish a collaboration between the University of Auckland and the ANCDF, so that our satellite mission design teams can work on their proposed missions at the ANCDF, using the world-class resources of that facility.
To realise this mission design capability we need local telecommunications, telemetry and control facilities. To this end we will collaborate with ESA’s European Space Operations Centre (ESOC) to develop capability in these areas and establish a mission control centre in Invercargill to operate through the Awarua Satellite Ground Station. The proposed MCC would adopt international standards and enable New Zealand partners to adopt and test their space protocols. Our international partners are expected to also use the facilities. The Centre will initially directly control space operations through the Awarua Satellite Ground Station. Once established, we will partner with other ground stations across the world. A future New Zealand optical telecommunications satellite ground station would be incorporated into the network.
Small-satellite radar to monitor NZ’s oceans and coasts - The University of Auckland
Space-borne satellite radar is an important technology to measure properties of the Earth surface. However, existing radar satellites are relatively large, heavy and expensive. For example, the TanDEM-X radar satellites currently used for earth-observation are 5 m in length and 2.4 m in cross section, weigh more than 1300 kg, and cost approximately 165 million Euros. Therefore, current satellite radar missions employ either only a single satellite platform or a small constellation of two satellites. For these missions the revisit period, i.e. the time between satellite passes over one target region, is ten days or more.
However, it is desirable to observe targets much more frequently. For example, immediately following an earthquake or other natural disaster it would be helpful to obtain information on the extent of the destruction changes in the surface features as fast as possible. Similarly, monitoring NZ’s large oceanic exclusive economic zone requires regular satellite passes. Such rapid information can be obtained by using large numbers of satellites that allow one particular region to be overpassed more frequently than with a single satellite. Inexpensive CubeSats employing commercial-off-the-shelf components are the ideal platform for these constellations.
The small physical size of the CubeSat platform (10 cm x 10 cm x 10 cm) places significant constraints on the design of satellite radar systems. The miniaturization of SAR systems to fit on a CubeSat requires new technological breakthroughs that go beyond state-of-the-art. This project will collaborate with German and Canadian researchers develop a prototype satellite radar system suitable for integration on CubeSat platforms.
Taking biochemistry to new heights: developing nanosatellites for protein crystallisation - The University of Canterbury
The current global space economy is valued at 383 billion USD, with forecasters estimating growth in the sector to reach 1-3 trillion USD over the next two decades. New Zealand is uniquely placed to leverage its domestic launch services via Rocket Lab to develop a world-leading space ecosystem to support the growing space industry. As the industry diversifies beyond launch services and satellite technology, New Zealand researchers now have the opportunity to facilitate cutting edge space-based biotechnology research by utilising the extensive intellectual and technical capacity that exists already at our tertiary institutions, crown research institutes, and commercial industries.
Conducting biological experiments in space allows for both a more complete understanding of life on Earth and the development of life support capabilities which will enable advanced human space exploration and future off-Earth habitation. Whilst limited biological experiments have been deployed on nanosatellites (ie GeneSat-1, PharmaSat, O/OREOS), these have so far focussed primarily on basic, fundamental science. With the cost of small satellite development and deployment decreasing and the availability of launches increasing, there now exists a cost-effective platform with which to utilise these satellites for more advanced biotechnological research as well as commercial R&D applications.
Protein crystallisation is an essential method for determining protein structures, and is utilised globally by academic teams, pharmaceutical companies, and the biotechnology industry. Protein structures made possible through crystallography have led to the understanding of disease models, the treatment of genetic disorders, and the development of new drugs to combat cancer and microbial infections. Protein crystallisation experiments conducted on the ISS have illustrated the potency of a microgravity environment for producing large, high-quality protein crystals that are otherwise extremely difficult or impossible to produce on Earth. Thus far, these experiments have required the controlled, biologically-accommodating infrastructure and astronauts present on the ISS, limiting the optimisation and diversification of experiments due to the logistical constraints of securing opportunities for these experiments. To expand opportunities for researchers in New Zealand and around the globe to utilise microgravity for essential protein crystallisation experiments, we propose the development of a nanosatellite-based space biology laboratory for crystallising proteins in low Earth orbit. By combining the expertise of scientists and engineers at the University of Canterbury and University of Auckland with partnerships at Arizona State University, the ISS U.S. National Laboratory, and JAXA, we will advance our research and create new global opportunities for New Zealand’s space sector.
Development of environmentally friendly, high performance satellite propulsion systems for replacement of toxic hydrazine - Dawn Aerospace
Dawn Aerospace has recently brought to market a novel and proprietary, extremely high performance, environmentally friendly propulsion system for CubeSats to the SmallSat satellite industry. Traditional propulsion systems for large satellite and spacecraft make use of a deadly toxic and lethal fuel called Hydrazine. It is extremely bad for the environment, deadly and expensive. The European Union are planning to ban its use by 2021. Airbus has publicly stated this is an unsolved €2B per annum problem.
Dawn aims to solve this problem by massively scaling up our existing technology, manufacturing a novel propulsion system that completely displaces hydrazine based systems. This technology is not conceptual and the opportunity is very real. To quote the NASA Goddard Flight Centre, “Your system significantly outperforms the alternatives. In terms of development, you are definitely ahead of the competition.” Manufactured in NZ, Dawn’s small satellite propulsion systems are non-toxic, environmentally friendly, powerful, and commercially viable, with a number already sold to European customers.
This project presents an exciting opportunity for Dawn to build on their successes to date and develop a ground-breaking system which eliminates a global dependence on a highly toxic, extremely dangerous chemical. Funding from MBIE’s Catalyst Fund will allow Dawn to initiate and grow international R&D collaboration on this project.
Through enduring international collaboration, facilitated through this project and made possible by MBIE, Dawn aims to bring new knowledge, new technology and environmentally sustainable products of the highest calibre back to its manufacturing and science facilities in New Zealand – further enhancing New Zealand as the ideal location for new space. Dawn wish to applaud MBIE and the New Zealand Space Agency for their work in promoting the development of high value industry and international collaboration.
Advanced small satellite control systems for collision avoidance and orbital debris mitigation - Swarm NZ Limited
Technological advances have made small satellites capable of increasingly complex missions, and innovations by launch operators have made small satellites cheaper to launch than ever before. However, in-space collisions and space debris are a growing concern as the number of satellites in orbit increases. In order to operate safely in an evolving orbital environment, satellite operators require strategies to reduce the probability of in-space collisions with other satellites or pieces of debris. No centralized “air traffic controller” currently exists in space, and orbital manoeuvres to avoid potential collisions are left up to each satellite operator. Accurate information about where satellites and debris are located in space is increasingly available, but satellite operators require tools to translate this data into actionable strategies to mitigate collision risk.
The goal of this project is to create a software platform that will allow satellite operators to reduce the probability of in-space collisions. The research program will identify the requirements for collision avoidance systems for small spacecraft and determine the manoeuvring capabilities required to reduce the probability of collision. Software algorithms to control satellite manoeuvring systems and mitigate collision risk will be developed. Realistic potential collision scenarios will be modeled to validate the system. Collaboration with LeoLabs, a satellite and orbital debris tracking company, will provide a source of high-accuracy orbital location data to enable realistic simulations. The collision avoidance platform will also be tested on-board satellites in low Earth orbit. For on-orbit testing, a real satellite and a simulated satellite or debris object will be used for collision avoidance manoeuvres so that a real collision is never a risk.
Orbital debris mitigation requires a high degree of collaboration between satellite operators, and tools like that proposed can serve as a shared framework for responding to potential collision risks. The software tool will be released as an open source project, allowing users ranging from university cubesat projects to small satellite constellation operators to benefit from the research and satisfying New Zealand protective security requirements. The research will also foster international collaboration between experts in a range of disciplines, including satellite tracking, satellite design, data analysis and simulation, and software development. Mitigating collision risk is of paramount importance to every launch vehicle operator, satellite operator, and end-user that benefits from satellite services. This research will contribute to the important goal of maintaining a safe orbital environment that enables innovation and supports continued scientific and commercial activity.
Thermal management of cryogenic superconducting magnets in small satellites - Victoria University of Wellington
Robinson Research Institute (RRI) of Victoria University of Wellington and the UNSW Canberra Space Group will work together on strategic problems in satellite technology. RRI has the goal of becoming the world leading group in applying high temperature superconductors (HTS) in space missions. UNSW, the leading space research group in Australia, has unique capabilities in satellite and mission design facilities and thermal modelling.
Superconducting magnets can address many technical challenges in space, for example, more efficient propulsion, satellite control, and energy storage. Managing the cooling of these systems, which have to be maintained at cryogenic temperatures, in space is complex. Space is thought of as cold, but satellites experience direct sunlight and temperatures of satellites therefore vary considerably. We will combine modelling and experiments to prove how HTS cryogenic systems can meet satellite mission goals.
UNSW have a world class mission design capability in their Concurrent Design Facility (CDF). The CDF enables modelling of satellite performance by a combined team of engineers for a realistic mission. For example the CDF core software can track the flux of sunlight generating power from solar panels and how well that power is stored in batteries, while allowing power to all the functioning systems of the satellite. This collaboration will benefit both parties by using the existing CDF facility to model missions which include superconductor components and cryocooler and then extend the CDF capability with more sophisticated modelling tools.
We will also investigate how superconductor systems could be applied to novel satellite positioning systems based on charged particle aerodynamics. The Ionosphere present in upper levels of the atmosphere provides a constant inflow of low-density plasma that is usually neglected in aerodynamic calculations. The aim is to use magnetic field interactions with this plasma to provide thrust. As the magnetic field pushes or pulls on these ions, the reaction force on the magnet can be transmitted to push or pull on the satellite itself.
We also aim to enhance trans-Tasman relationships in regard to Vision Mātauranga and Indigenous research. Our team is engaging with Maori in space-related issues. We will interact with Australian counterparts with experience in engaging Australian indigenous communities. UNSW will be organising the COSPAR 2020 conference and we aim to include through this collaboration a Maori-Aborigine contribution to the conference.
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