Payloads approved for launch
We’re committed to keeping New Zealanders informed about the range of payloads launched into space, from New Zealand.
As part of this commitment we are releasing, on a quarterly basis, a summary of all payloads approved for launch by the Minister for Economic Development.
List of all approved payloads, up to 31 March 2023
Summary of approved payloads
We have approved a range of payloads for launch from New Zealand and this diversity is shown below by country, owner, purpose and size of all payloads up to 31st March 2023
Where information has not been published about a payload, there are grounds for withholding that information under the Official Information Act 1982.
Read about the most recent payloads permitted
Summary of most recent payloads permitted:
No payload permits were issued between 1 January 2023 and 31 March 2023, leaving the total at 100 payload permits approved to date.
Read more about the payloads permitted
100 payload permits have been issued up to 31 March 2023. Of these, 56 have been for commercial organisations, 19 for government organisations, 14 for Academic institutions and 2 for non-profits. Note that some payload permits are for more than one satellite.
The following summarise some of the approved payload purposes for science (9), technology demonstration (57), remote sensing (21), educational (14) and other commercial (13). Note some payloads can have more than one purpose.
Some examples of scientific payloads that have been launched from New Zealand include:
- collecting data from space to investigate whether there is a link between with atmospheric activity and tectonic activity on Earth;
- conducting space weather experiments; and
- collecting radio signals from outside the Earth’s atmosphere.
Some examples of technology demonstration payloads that have been launched from New Zealand include:
- demonstrating audio, video and data file transfer capabilities between ground facilities and the payloads;
- providing calibration points for ground-based radar to assist with the tracking of orbital debris; and
- testing efficient battery charging in an orbital environment.
New Zealand has launched commercial payloads, such as those that have remote sensing capabilities, which are owned by the United States, France, and Singapore. Remote sensing includes observing the Earth from their respective satellites and providing these images to their customers. Payload missions that New Zealand has launched include satellites gaining real-time images and maritime traffic tracking.
There are a range of educational missions that we have approved payloads for; this includes for students in Mexico, Australia and several US academic institutions who have developed and built CubeSats that we launched in New Zealand. Some of their missions encapsulate research and development and remote sensing purposes and include:
- conducting digital image processing and software improvement experiments as part of their study
- broadcasting Morse Code messages across the world on amateur radio frequencies. Students around the world will be able to receive these messages
- collecting and recording data on the radiation present in low Earth Orbit
- taking photos of the Earth, Moon and Venus with the integrated camera.
Commercial organisations put up a variety of payloads for different purposes including science, remote sensing and technology demonstration and educational. Other commercial purposes which do not fit into these categories include:
- Creating artificial meteor showers
- Providing commercial data connectivity services through providing low-power and low-data rate VHF communications between Earth and Space.
New Zealand generally launches small satellites, and CubeSats in particular. The total number of satellites permitted are shown in the “satellite numbers and sizes” bar graph. Most of the satellites are at a nanosatellite size (206), followed by picosatellites (168), microsatellites (29) and minisatellites (6). These sizes are defined further below:
- Picosatellite (0.01-1kg)
- Nanosatellites (1-10kg): This includes CubeSats which are cube-shaped satellites that can come in a range of sizes. 1 Unit (e.g. 1U) is 10 cm x 10 cm x 10 cm and weighs approximately 1 kg.
- Microsatellites (10-100kg)
- Mini Satellite (100-180kg)
Process to launch a payload
Read more about how a payload is permitted
As shown in the image, the following process is required to launch payloads:
- An application is provided and assessed: Anyone planning to launch a payload from New Zealand sends an application to the New Zealand Space Agency (NZSA). The NZSA reviews and assesses the application, supported by multiple government agencies. More Guidance on applications.
- A decision on the payload permit application: The Minister for Economic Development is briefed by the NZSA, and is responsible for the final decision to approve or decline the payload permit application.
- Lift off and monitoring: Following permitting, the payload owner/applicant is advised of the decision and the payload may then be launched. Following launch, permitted payloads will be monitored.
Assessing payload applications
Payloads are permitted in line with the Outer Space and High-altitude Activities Act 2017(external link) and the Outer Space and High-altitude Activities (Licences and Permits) Regulations 2017(external link).
Each payload has been approved by the Minister for Economic Development, on advice from officials across agencies. When approving payloads, the Minister needs to be satisfied that:
- The applicant has taken and will continue to take all reasonable steps to safely manage the operation of the payload;
- The proposed operation of the payload is consistent with New Zealand’s international obligations; and
- The applicant has an orbital debris mitigation plan that meets prescribed requirements.
Despite being satisfied of these matters, the Minister may nevertheless decline a permit if he is not satisfied that the proposed operation of the payload is in New Zealand's national interest. The Minister may grant a single payload permit authorising the launch of one or more payloads by the permit holder.
Prior to the OSHAA, the contract with Rocket Lab allowed the Government to veto the launch of any payload that it determined was contrary to NZ law, regulations or policy, was contrary to NZ’s international obligations or would prejudice NZ’s national security or other national interests. Every payload launched by Rocket Lab under the contract was assessed against these interests.
Agreement between the NZ government and Rocket Lab [PDF, 2.7 MB]
Principles applied to consideration of payloads
The approach which guides the Minister for Economic Development’s consideration of the national interest includes a set of principles, and a set of activities which are considered not in New Zealand’s national interests.
Approach to payload assessments under the Outer Space and High-altitude Activities Act [PDF, 318 KB]
The principles include:
- Responsibility – space activities from New Zealand should promote an orbital environment where users avoid causing harm or interference with the activities of others.
- Sustainability – space activities from New Zealand should preserve the benefits of space for future generations through adherence to sustainable practices.
- Safety – space activities from New Zealand should not jeopardise the safety of people on the ground or in space.
- Space activities authorised by the Government should reflect New Zealand’s values and interests, and align with broader policy settings.
The following launch activities will not be allowed because they are not in New Zealand’s national interest:
- payloads that contribute to nuclear weapons programmes or capabilities;
- payloads with the intended end use of harming, interfering with, or destroying other spacecraft, or systems on Earth;
- payloads with the intended end use of supporting or enabling specific defence, security or intelligence operations that are contrary to government policy;
- payloads where the intended end use is likely to cause serious or irreversible harm to the environment.
Under Section 18(1)(f) of the Outer-Space and High Altitude Activities Act 2017 the Minister for Economic Development may impose conditions necessary or desirable in order to;
- give effect to New Zealand’s international obligations; or
- protect national security or other national interests; or
- ensure public safety; or
- avoid potentially harmful interference with the activities of others in the peaceful exploration and use of outer space; or
- minimise the risk of contamination of outer space or adverse changes in the earth’s environment; or
- manage New Zealand’s potential liability under international law (including under the Liability Convention and the Outer Space Treaty).
The following conditions will be applied to every payload:
- The activity shall be carried out in accordance with the payload permit application and all supporting documents submitted to the New Zealand Space Agency.
- In particular, the payload is authorised to be launched to the orbital parameters provided in the application material. Any change to these parameters must be approved by the Minister prior to launch.
- The payload operator must inform the launch provider of the authorised orbital parameters prior to launch.
- The permit holder must inform the launch provider of the specific orbital parameters that were applied for, or that are described as conditions on the permit.
- That in the event of any accident or incident involving a space object to which this permit applies, the permit holder will as soon as reasonably practicable:
- notify the New Zealand Space Agency of the accident or incident; and
- provide the New Zealand Space Agency a written report about the accident or incident including, but not limited to, the following (if known):
- the date and time of the accident or incident; and
- details of the space objects involved; and
- location of the accident or incident.
Last updated: 28 April 2023