Space centre to be operating by July
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.’’