Government renews deal with European Space Agencvy

Southland students will benefit from renewed arrangement between the European Space Agency and the New Zealand Government.

Venture Southland satellite ground station manager Robin McNeill said the arrangement was first signed in 2007 to establish and operate the Awarua Satellite Ground Station near Invercargill to support resupply missions to the International Space Station.

The agreement included a clause, negotiated by Venture Southland, requiring ESA to promote the space sector to Southland students.

Space industry personnel, including ESA scientists, engineers, rocket scientists and an astronaut have visited Southland schools, and students have visited the Awarua Satellite Ground Station.

McNeill was delighted the education clause would continue in the renewed arrangement, he said.

"All over the world, New Zealanders are involved in space, from rocket engineering to space law. There are plenty of opportunities in the industry for well-educated Southlanders."

McNeill will meet with the ESA later this year to discuss how best to expand the education programme.

Venture Southland and the French Space Agency CNES are the implementing authorities in the arrangement.

Building on its work with CNES, Venture Southland now has contracts with five space agencies and satellite operators from two continents, McNeill said.

Contracts were being pursued with other operators and Awarua featured on the maps of many organisations in the international space operations community, he said.

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The space industry in Southland could, quite literally, take off on the back of Auckland-based Rocket Lab, whose chief executive officer Peter Beck comes from Invercargill, McNeill said. 

"Rocket Lab are very close to  its first qualification launch. When they start launching south, we are in a prime position to track their launches and their customers' satellites".

"Who would have thought 10 years ago that Southlanders could make a career in the space industry overseas, let alone in their own backyard?"

 - Stuff

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