Space cen­tre to be op­er­at­ing by July

Central Otago Mirror - - CONVERSATIONS - JO MCKEN­ZIE-MCLEAN

There will be no spy­ing on peo­ple, no rock­ets launched out of Alexan­dra, or any­thing ex­cit­ing for tourists to see, the brains be­hind a new space cen­tre says.

Sci­en­tist Greg Bodeker hosted a pub­lic meet­ing in the Cen­tral Otago town­ship of Alexan­dra re­cently to share in­for­ma­tion about the new Cen­tre for Space Science Technology.

The space cen­tre has at­tracted gov­ern­ment fund­ing of $14.7 mil­lion over four years to es­tab­lish it­self as a re­gional re­search in­sti­tute.

Bodeker said that about 50 per cent of the cen­tre’s work would be act­ing as a data bro­ker in the same way Phar­mac acted as a bro­ker for ac­cess­ing phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals, and de­velop prod­ucts and ser­vices based on space-based mea­sure­ments.

‘‘The first thing will be to ac­cess space-based data in a mas­sive way...It will be­come a sort of on­estop-shop for satel­lite data for any or­gan­i­sa­tion in New Zealand.

‘‘The (New Zealand) De­fence Technology Agency has an in­ter­est in what we are do­ing ... but it is mostly about data...not about spy­ing or tak­ing photos of peo­ple while they are shop­ping. The long term goal is to de­velop joint ven­tures with other com­pa­nies ac­tive in overseas mar­kets be­cause if we can make a lot of money in overseas mar­kets and have that money come back into CSST, we can lower our costs to in­dus­tries in New Zealand. We are try­ing to pro­vide prod­ucts and ser­vices as cheap as pos­si­ble, if not for free, to or­gan­i­sa­tions in New Zealand.’’

The plan was to have the cen­tre up and run­ning by July 1, 2017, then a ‘‘call out’’ would be made to or­gan­i­sa­tions across the coun­try, he said.

‘‘If you are an or­gan­i­sa­tion and you have a good idea how you can use space-based mea­sure­ments to do your job bet­ter and de­velop bet­ter prod­ucts and ser­vices for your clients please sub­mit a pro­posal to CSST how that might look and CSST will col­lab­o­rate with you, pro­vide fund­ing and ex­perts in that field to get you go­ing. Then when that or­gan­i­sa­tion is de­liv­er­ing that su­pe­rior prod­uct or ser­vice to their clients and is mak­ing oo­dles of money, CSST will take some frac­tion of those oo­dles of money and use it to re­fill CSST cof­fers so it can do the same again to help another or­gan­i­sa­tion on another busi­ness project.’’

The cen­tre would ini­tially em­ploy up to 40 peo­ple out of Alexan­dra in the first year, 15 based at Lin­coln, 10 in New Ply­mouth and 10 in Dunedin, he said.

‘‘This is go­ing to be an or­gan­i­sa­tion that grows and it is go­ing to evolve. We don’t want to build an em­pire. CSST is about en­abling other or­gan­i­sa­tions to do their job bet­ter. Peo­ple have thought it could be a tourist op­por­tu­nity - tourists will come to see CSST. This is go­ing to be dead bor­ing to look at. There is go­ing to be 20 peo­ple in front of 20 com­put­ers de­vel­op­ing prod­ucts and ser­vices. There are not go­ing to be rock­ets go­ing off in Alexan­dra.’’

CSST would also de­velop New Zealand’s first satel­lite pro­gramme which would stim­u­late new in­dus­tries in New Zealand, he said.

‘‘It is not about launch­ing rock­ets and satel­lites only. Although there will be a satel­lite pro­gramme - we will de­sign, build, launch and op­er­ate a fleet of cube­sats. It is worth keep­ing in mind when you get data for free, it is not the orig­i­nal data..If we as a coun­try op­er­ate our own satel­lites it en­sures a cer­tain level of na­tional sovereignty and we can be sure no-one has messed with the data.’’

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