In its continuous effort to build its capacity as a regulator of space activity, the New Zealand Space Agency (NZSA) has a new pilot project that will provide officials with real-time information on the orbital position of satellites launched from New Zealand.
According to a recent press release, the Space Agency, which is housed within the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), has partnered with a company of space situational awareness experts to develop the Space Regulatory and Sustainability Platform.
The bespoke tool will be used to track objects launched from New Zealand to ensure compliance with permit conditions.
The Lower Earth Orbit
As shared by the MBIE General Manager of Science, Innovation and International, who also leads the NZSA, lower Earth orbit is rapidly emerging as the focus of commercial space activity.
It also serves a home to thousands of satellites travelling at extremely high speeds around the globe, which provides services that are relied on every day.
Moreover, it is home to a growing population of debris, increasing the risk of collisions that could potentially create thousands of new particles of debris and damage expensive equipment.
As a launching nation, they have a responsibility to minimise orbital debris and preserve space for future generations.
The first step in achieving this is to understand where the objects launched are located.
The Space Regulatory and Sustainability Platform
The platform provides independent, on-going monitoring of satellites and will be able to alert the Space Agency when a satellite is outside of its regulatory limits and at risk of collision with other objects.
As reported, it provides cloud-based services based on the company’s network of global sensors. Observations are then processed through the company’s mapping and “software as a service” (SaaS) platform.
This, in turn, will analyse and deliver operational and compliance information to the Space Agency.
By ensuring these objects stay within the expected risk profiles, they can develop an understanding of an operator’s compliance record and potential collision risk.
Not only that, but they will be able to meet their international obligations as a responsible launching state.
Why is this important?
As the commercial use of space increases, regulators around the world are working on ways to manage the risks caused by debris.
The development of this type of monitoring capability demonstrates best practice and leadership in the safe and sustainable use of space.
The co-founder and Chief Technology Officer of the company explained that every nation, whether large or small, which engages in space will need to monitor and ensure responsible behaviour by its commercial and national fleet.
The company believes that the visualisation and analytics tools built for the New Zealand Space Agency’s regulatory mission have broader applicability for all space agencies, and thus the potential to contribute to global best practices.
The company is looking forward, together with New Zealand, to sharing their progress with others across the international space community.
The New Zealand Space Agency was set up in 2016 as the lead government agency for space policy, regulation and business development.