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Satellite tracking station considered

NEIL RATLEY
Last updated 05:00 07/12/2012

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An international space agency is considering building a satellite tracking station near Invercargill, Venture Southland says.

After Venture Southland staff attended the SpaceOps 2012 conference in Stockholm, Sweden, to meet space agencies and satellite operators, Venture was asked to prepare a proposal for a tracking station next to the existing Awarua ground station.

Venture Southland enterprise projects manager Robin McNeill said the name of the European space operator was confidential at this stage but the "significant" space agency was considering the proposal.

"Venture Southland provided the agency with costings for design, licensing, construction and maintenance and we are hoping for an answer later this month or early next year," Mr McNeill said.

Establishing a satellite tracking station would open doors for further collaboration between Southland and international space agencies.

There was an ever-increasing number of new satellites being launched and Southland could become a hub for providing data and satellite images for agencies and operators around the world, he said.

"On December 2, the Pleiades 1B very-high-resolution optical satellite was launched by the French to join its twin Pleiades 1A to form the first ever very-high-resolution Earth-imaging constellation of its kind.

"Southland can play a central role in collecting and processing the data collected by these type of satellites," Mr McNeill said. The vast quantity of data collected by the satellites could only be downloaded at the northern and southern polar regions.

Southland was classified as a South Pole ground tracking option without being covered in ice, Mr McNeill said.

Group manager enterprise and strategic projects Steve Canny said if the project proceeded, it would be a welcome addition to services already being provided in Southland and a new opportunity for New Zealand to be part of international space collaboration.

Meanwhile, Mr McNeill said Invercargill would host the 2013 Royal Astronomical Society of New Zealand conference during the last weekend in May with special guest speakers visiting schools in the region.

"Venture Southland is working with the European Space Agency to provide a key speaker at the conference and continue to sell Southland as a space hub."

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