We are the front door for space activity in New Zealand – the lead government agency for space policy, regulation and business development.
We regulate the use of space from New Zealand
Our regulatory regime provides for the safe, responsible and secure use of space from New Zealand, and includes the following legislation:
- Outer Space and High-altitude Activities Act 2017(external link)
- Outer Space and High-altitude Activities (Licences and Permits) Regulations 2017(external link)
- Outer Space and High-altitude Activities (Definition of High-altitude Vehicle) Regulations 2017(external link)
See Our regulatory regime for more information about the Act and regulations.
We support rocket launches
Rocket Lab, a United States (US) corporation with a subsidiary in New Zealand, has established the world’s first private orbital launch ranges on the Mahia Peninsula, on the east coast of New Zealand.
Rocket Lab’s mission is to remove the barriers to commercial space by providing frequent launch opportunities to low Earth orbit. Rocket Lab conducted its first test launch in May 2017 with its first fully commercial launch completed on 11 November 2018.
Rocket Lab agreement
The Government has an agreement with Rocket Lab USA Inc and Rocket Lab NZ which authorises their current launch activities.
The Outer Space and High-altitude Activities Act came into force in December 2017, and Rocket Lab is in the process of transitioning to the relevant licences.
We enable space-related business, science and innovation
New Zealand is an attractive place for space-related commerce.
We’re growing a space industry that is internationally credible, innovative and competitive. We want our economy to realise the economic, social and environmental benefits associated with the use of space.
We’ve already seen the following developments:
- We’re the location of choice for New Zealand’s first ever commercial rocket launcher — Rocket Lab. Rocket Lab website(external link)
- We’re an attractive place for the launching of high-altitude balloons. Check out NASA’s super-pressure balloon activity in Wanaka in the South Island.
NZ Airports website — NASA confirms 10-year arrangement for super balloon launches at Wanaka Airport(external link)
- We’re the only Southern hemisphere location for the world’s most advanced phased-array radar providing high resolution data on objects in low Earth orbit. LeoLabs and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment signed an agreement in September 2018 to work together, resulting in the opening of LeoLabs’ Kiwi Space Radar in October 2019.
LeoLabs website(external link)
- Established with Government funding Xerra, is based in Alexandra and develops satellite data products to drive regional economic growth.
Xerra website(external link)
A November 2019 report that MBIE commissioned from Deloitte [PDF, 1.9 MB] shows the New Zealand space economy was worth $1.69 billion in 2018-19 and supported 12,000 jobs. The report’s key findings are that New Zealand’s space economy:
Is ‘New Space’-driven, characterised by a mix of start-up and well-established entrepreneur-driven and privately-funded space companies
Has strong space manufacturing and space applications sub-sectors, and cutting-edge research and development capability within several universities across the country; and
Draws on local as well as international talent, and has strong connections with the global space economy.
We’re interested in advancing areas where New Zealand has existing and emerging strengths, including developing and applying space-based data in areas such as agri-technology, hazard management, oceanography and meteorology.
Over time there may be opportunities for New Zealand businesses and other organisations to develop capabilities in a range of space-related areas — such as satellite design and manufacturing and space science, technology and engineering research activity.
For more information about why New Zealand is an attractive place to do space business, see Space-related opportunities in New Zealand.
We engage internationally
Our international engagement programme includes visits to, and discussions with other national space agencies, potential investors and entrepreneurs and other government regulators.
We’ve joined international space forums such as the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS).
UN space treaties
New Zealand is already a party to 4 United Nations space treaties:
- The Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, Including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies (the Outer Space Treaty), which was ratified by New Zealand in 1968.
- The Agreement on the Rescue of Astronauts, the Return of Astronauts and the Return of Objects Launched into Outer Space (the Rescue Agreement), which was ratified by New Zealand in 1969.
- The Convention on International Liability for Damage Caused by Space Objects (the Liability Convention), which was ratified by New Zealand in 1974.
- The Convention on Registration of Objects Launched into Outer Space (the Registration Convention), which New Zealand acceded to in 2018.
The documents below provide more information on these treaties.
- Accession to the United Nations Convention on Registration of Objects launched into Outer Space - Cabinet paper [PDF, 558 KB]
- National Interest Analysis: United Nations Convention on Registration of Objects launched into Outer Space [PDF, 48 KB]
- Accession to the United Nations Convention on Registration of Objects launched into Outer Space - Cabinet minute [PDF, 585 KB]
- Membership of the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space - COPUOS - Briefing [PDF, 2.1 MB]
Bilateral and Technology Safeguards agreements
We have bilateral agreements with the United States Government and with the European Space Agency.
We’ve signed a bilateral agreement with the United States (US) Government for space launches using US technology in New Zealand, called the Technology Safeguards Agreement (TSA). This agreement enables commercial entities in New Zealand to import rocket launch technology and satellites from the US.
Under the agreement, New Zealand agencies preserve their full existing powers and functions, such as border control, health and safety, and accident investigation, by way of a Side Arrangement.
The TSA adds another strand to our close and long-standing relationship with the US, and opens the door for US space businesses to consider New Zealand as a business location.
We develop space policy and strategy
We have a work programme of strategic advice and policy development that includes assessment of, and advice on:
- the opportunities and risks associated with the use of space, and
- the role of government.
We believe New Zealand can become a significant player in the global commercial space launch industry. However, the opportunities for New Zealand are much broader than launch activities.