Responsive New Space

The New Zealand Defence Force plays a critical role alongside other government agencies in protecting and advancing our national security interests in New Zealand, the South Pacific and the Southern Ocean, in conducting search and rescue in the open ocean and in responding to national disasters, for example the Kaikoura earthquake. More often than not, the environmental conditions are at the extreme. With civilian lives at risk, rapid and precise responsiveness is vital. We, therefore, have to know the oceans, the coastal zone and the atmosphere, recognise and be resilient to the extremes, and adapt to variations, from climate change to geophysical disturbances. Studying the oceanic environment has underpinned the research, science and technology endeavors of the Defence Technology Agency of the New Zealand Defence Force for over sixty-five years. Much of the understanding has been attained by making and manually analysing discrete multi-point measurements and then framing models to fill in the gaps.  

'New Space' transforms the paradigm from expensive data scarcity to low-cost data abundance. Manual exploitation is no longer viable. Big data demands automation, artificial intelligence and predictive analytics to extract timely and operationally useful information. This future offers great data opportunities, but we cannot do this alone. We must, and are increasingly partnering with others to make better use of these openings. Since 2013, the Defence Technology Agency has been collaborating with international partners to advance the utility of small satellites, in this case to enhance awareness of the New Zealand maritime zone. Our entry point was to build a ground station as a node within the ground segment of an international small satellite network. This is giving us exposure to satellite concepts, design, build and test, satellite missions and the running thereof, and, the automated operation of a ground station within a multi-user environment. The relative low-cost of new space is giving rise to constellations of hundreds of small satellites, thereby offering persistent and thus responsive Earth observation. Rapid satellite assembly and launch will deliver further responsiveness for specialised tasks.   


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Dr John Kay - Principal Scientist, Defence Technology Agency

Dr Kay has been employed as a scientist by the Defence Technology Agency and its predecessors for 37 years. He currently holds the position of Principal Scientist. John’s expertise and experience extends from the sea floor through the maritime domain to space. He has led New Zealand’s participation in international defence science research and development collaborations, working with many scientists and policy experts both domestically and internationally.

Most recently, John has made significant contributions in areas of space-based systems where emerging low cost small satellites placed in low earth polar orbit offer openings to enhance our awareness, understanding and security of our maritime region spanning the South Pacific and Southern Oceans. Dr Kay is an internationally recognised leader in defence science and technology, and, was appointed a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the New Year Honours 2018 for services to the New Zealand Defence Force.


University of Canterbury Sounding Rocket Program – development of research foundation and student training for the NZ space industry

This talk will cover the history of UC Rocketry research and the collaboration with Rocket Lab which has resulted in more than $1.5M in external rocketry research funding raised by Dr Hann since 2010. An important part of the research was performed during a Rutherford Discovery Fellowship from 2012-2016 which was sponsored by the Royal Society of NZ. This Fellowship resulted in a group of highly trained students who have played a major role in Rocket Lab including several key leadership positions in Guidance, Navigation and Control (GNC), as well as avionics and propulsion. Furthermore, five of the launch operator positions at Mahia Peninsula were taken by past/present UC Rocketry research students. The research with Rocket Lab involved the development of new GNC methodologies that were successfully tested in many subsonic and supersonic rocket launches from the UC Rocketry Kaitorete Spit launch site. This research provided the foundation for the GNC on Rocket Lab’s orbital vehicle 'Electron' and included the development of orbital mechanics and trajectory optimization techniques in collaboration with ASTOS in Germany. This GNC knowledge was transferred to Rocket Lab through the UC Rocketry students with five Callaghan Innovation Student Fellowships.


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Dr Chris Hann - Senior Lecturer, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of Canterbury

Dr. Christopher E. Hann has extensive research and teaching experience in minimal modelling, parameter identification and control for rocketry systems and aerospace engineering in general. He has a proven track record in developing research for the high tech industry with over $2.5M external funding raised since 2010. This work has led to major outcomes in sounding rocket control systems including developing the research foundation for the Guidance, Navigation and Control (GNC) algorithms on Rocket Lab’s orbital rocket Electron, recently proven in orbit. Six of Hann’s postgraduate students are in key positions at Rocket Lab including several in important leadership roles in GNC, avionics and propulsion.

Since 2010, the methods have also been successfully applied to unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), robotics and structural health monitoring of multi-storey buildings. Prior to 2010 Hann’s research was primarily used in the medical field, particularly for glucose control, lung ventilation and cardiovascular management in the Christchurch Intensive Care Unit. He has 110 journal papers, 163 refereed conference papers and 3 US patents.


Space Systems Development at The University of Auckland

By: Nicholas Rattenbury, John Cater and Jim Hefkey

This presentation will outline the work at the University of Auckland in developing space systems capacity for space-based Earth observation projects. This includes the Auckland Programme for Space Systems (APSS) which is the University’s interdisciplinary undergraduate small satellite design competition. This mission will be making observations of the ionosphere, a poorly understood part of Earth’s atmosphere. Current research in the Faculties of Engineering and Science include an MBIE-funded project in the development of a novel synthetic aperture radar antenna system for low-cost earth observation satellites. The University of Auckland is also working with the Australian National University and Stanford University to develop small satellite propulsion systems -- a key element in the control of monitoring missions. ANU is also home to the Advanced Instrumentation Technology Centre which comprises a world-class satellite and space systems testing and integration facility. The AITC is where we will be space-qualifying the first APSS satellite. We would like to highlight the opportunities for New Zealand to test space system hardware at the AITC.


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Dr Nicholas Rattenbury

Dr Nicholas Rattenbury is a Royal Society of New Zealand Rutherford Discovery Fellow. He completed his PhD in Physics at the University of Auckland and shortly thereafter left to do post-doctoral research at Jodrell Bank Observatory, The University of Manchester. After nearly five years of research, he worked for several years as a trainee patent attorney before returning to academia at Manchester Metropolitan University.

As an RDF, Nicholas returned to New Zealand to continue his research in astrophysics. He is one of a team of University researchers working towards fostering the New Zealand space industry. Nicholas' particular interest is in the development and use of nanosatellites to develop and test innovative satellite subsystems. Together with his colleagues in the Faculty of Engineering, they are developing new methods and antenna technologies to enable synthetic aperture radar observations from a nanosatellite platform. Their broader interests include developing optical communication and propulsion subsystems for nanosatellites. Nicholas helps guide the cross-disciplinary undergraduate student teams to design and develop space missions as part of our regular mission design competition, the Auckland Programme for Space Systems. He is also leading the design and construction of a satellite ground tracking station to monitor their satellite assets.

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Dr John Cater - Deputy Head of Department, Department of Engineering Science, University of Auckland

John Cater is the Engineering Lead for the Auckland Programme for Space Systems.

He has PhD in Aerospace Engineering and works in flow control, aerodynamics and hypersonic boundary layers.


Ground network capability for New Space

The presentation will discuss the global network of ground stations deployed by KSAT to meet the increased number of small satellites. 


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Borre Pedersen - International Sales Director - Ground Segment, Kongsberg Satellite Services (KSAT)

Borre is the International Sales Director - Ground Segment at Kongsberg Satellite Services (KSAT). He started with the company in 1998, working on the Svalbard Satellite Station (SvalSat) when the site had a single antenna. Over the next five years, the site developed extensively and KSAT installed numerous large aperture systems on the site.

As the International Sales Director, Borre works with government agencies and private entities all over the world to provide the right technical solutions, utilising KSAT's growing global network of ground stations.

Borre graduated with a BSc in Automation from the University of Bergen, Norway in 1994. 


ATLAS – An Enabling Technology Partner for New Zealand

ATLAS Space Operations is a global satellite communications company utilising software-based technologies to provide a simplified, cost effective solution to their customers. Their proprietary data management platform – ATLAS FreedomTM and a scalable proprietary satellite ground station technology, ATLAS LINKS TM Electronically Steered Array, create a paradigm-shifting alternative to traditional parabolic, mechanically steered RF satellite ground stations. Legacy technology continues to hamper down progress in the New Space era, which is precisely what they aim to change with their revolutionary approach. ATLAS FreedomTM is a cloud-based solution for gathering information from space for use on the ground. It simplifies the process of managing a spacecraft and expediting data to its user. Technologies such as this will play an integral role in supporting New Zealand’s space data initiatives and industry leading companies, such as Rocket Lab. Providing a software-platform and affordable, turn-key solution to young enterprises attempting to break into the New Space industry is essential. By lowering the price point to achieve access to space, ATLAS can allow start-ups to showcase their own revolutionary technologies.

ATLAS LINKS TM is a lightweight, eco-friendly, man-portable alternative to the traditional parabolic antenna we have all become accustomed to. Because the LINKS system is electronically steered, it has no moving parts. This results in a significant reduction in maintenance and noise reduction – meaning better performance than ever before. The entire system can be set up and taken down in minutes, making it effective as a portable system for surge support and remote operations for launch, early on-orbit operations, and temporary uses.

ATLAS will be advancing the development of the ATLAS LINKS System as a state-of-the-art lightweight, high-performance alternative to traditional parabolic, mechanically steered radio frequency (RF) satellite ground stations. This game-changing technology network provides affordable cloud-based solutions for space access in the rapidly growing global space market to deliver mission success.

ATLAS was founded on the ideal of providing affordable access to space for all, at the highest possible level of service.


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Mike Carey - Chief Strategy Officer, Atlas Space Operations

Mike Carey is a Founder and the Chief Strategy Officer of ATLAS Space Operations, Inc. A former USAF Major General with 34 years of experience in satellite and space-related operations, Mike shapes ATLAS’s future through strategy development, business planning and market engagement. General Carey also led AAC Microtec, North America, Inc. from 2014-2017, culminating in their IPO and recent advances in the market.

Experienced with recent commercial space ventures, the Air Force Satellite Control Network, Eastern/Western test ranges, and the Space Test & Training Range, General Carey has the technical and political prowess to manoeuver in the ever-expanding space markets.


The future of the space industry from the perspective of Maxar Technologies including potential commercial challenges and opportunities

Tod Cooper, with a unique commercial and procurement perspective, will provide a look at the future of the space industry from the perspective of Maxar Technologies, an industry leading vertically integrated space and geospatial intelligence powerhouse, comprising MDA, SSL, Radiant Solutions, and Digital Globe. Tod will also look at commercial opportunities and challenges that will present themselves, particular to New Zealand, as this industry becomes more and more accessible to small business.


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Tod Cooper - General Manager - Australasia, MDA Corporation

Tod has been involved in commercial and operational leadership and advisory roles for the past 15 years. A former NZ diplomat and more recently Head of Commercial and Procurement for Land Information New Zealand, Tod was recently appointed as the NZ-based General Manager, Surveillance and Intelligence for MDA Corporation, the Canadian space powerhouse, with responsibility across both Australia and New Zealand.


Continuing Satellite Ground Station Developments in Southland

Venture Southland joined the international space community in 2004 with the establishment of the Awarua Satellite Ground Station, between Invercargill and Bluff, for the launch early operations phase of the European Space Agency’s Ariane 5 ATV resupply missions to the International Space Station. Venture Southland’s work in the space sector has expanded to provide multi-mission multi-satellite ground segment support to the world’s best-known small-sat operators, certain Rocket Lab campaigns and others. Satellite Earth observation and remote sensing missions are of particular interest. Venture Southland has its own UHF capabilities and is building an S-Band antenna to support other missions and campaigns.


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Robin McNeill - Engineering Projects and Ground Segment Manager, Venture Southland

Mr McNeill heads Venture Southland’s space operations. He has been involved with building ground stations in Antarctica, Tokelau and Southland since 1991. Prior to joining Venture Southland in 2004 he worked with New Zealand Post Office, Telecom New Zealand and ITU.

He has an honours degree in Engineering from the University of Canterbury, and is a member of AIAA, senior member of IEEE and a fellow of Engineering New Zealand. Mr McNeill was presented the Rabone Award for Engineering Excellence in 2016 and was appointed Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2017.