New Zealand is a hot contender for a proposed satellite base, which could provide rapid emergency and monitoring data, the German Aerospace Centre says. Its Tokyo director, Niklas Reinke, expressed his interest at today's 'What on Earth Colloquium' at Te Papa, which was discussing the possibilities of earth satellite data. The Tandem L mission would involve putting two satellites into space to bring 3D images back down to various ground stations across the globe. Dr Reinke said the centre was currently lacking a ground station for the project in the South Pacific. "New Zealand is almost exactly on the other side of the world [to Germany] so, as the Earth is round, you need different stations all over the globe to receive satellite data...New Zealand or Tasmania could be perfect locations to install such ground stations," he said. He said satellite data could be sent to a station in Invercargill.
"We can have results: for example on where illegal fishing has been happening, or after a natural disaster, we can map areas which have been destroyed - so where rescue cars can still go - so this is all possible with the new space applications," he said. The project's budget was currently being discussed by the German government, with a decision set to be made later this year. The first satellite is expected to go up in about four years. MBIE's Science, Innovation and International general manager Peter Crabtree said New Zealand had hosted international stations for a long time. "So for New Zealand the greatest benefit is it connects us to the international space community," he said. Hazards management, precision agriculture, maritime surveillance and climate modelling were all things that mattered to New Zealand and space was radically transforming how that could be approached, he said.
Dr Crabtree said New Zealand was trying to forge partnerships with a range of international space agencies. "For these organisations they want to figure out strategically where they want to be, they will just make the choice and we'll just need to demonstrate New Zealand is a great option for them," he said. Dr Reinke was just one of many speakers at the two-day event. Its MC and science educator, Michelle Dickinson AKA Nano Girl, said other than Rocket Lab, New Zealand was not very good at talking about its potential in that realm. "What we're seeing from the conference is that we have potential to be a ground station, and there's lots of institutions here who could put CubeSats (satellites) into space." Dr Dickinson said having access to the ground centre and data would offer great economic opportunities. There were real possibilities for private enterprises in New Zealand to enter the space sector, she said. Being able to measure movement of buildings and roads, and looking at gases from volcanoes would have the biggest impact for New Zealand, she said. "We're an earthquake-prone country, so from a topographical point of view New Zealand has some natural challenges and this is a way we can monitor how things have moved," she said.