MBIE and LeoLabs sign multi-year agreement for world-leading space regulatory and sustainability platform

06 Aug 2021 3:06 PM | Mike Hearn (Administrator)

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) today announced a multi-year agreement between the New Zealand Space Agency and LeoLabs, Inc. to develop the world’s most advanced Space Regulatory and Sustainability Platform. The platform will improve the ability to implement responsible stewardship of space by commercial and public sector space entities.

“Our partnership with LeoLabs has allowed us to better understand what’s in space, which is key to upholding our duties as a launching country and ensuring the responsible use of the space environment,” says Dr Peter Crabtree, General Manager Science, Innovation and International.

The responsibilities of a launching state include monitoring the satellites launched from it, and making sure that they are complying with the license and rules that permitted the launch. This complex task has been made simpler for the New Zealand Space Agency through a contract with LeoLabs to develop a world-leading Space Regulatory and Sustainability Platform. The cloud-based platform uses data from LeoLabs global radar network, one of which is based in Naseby, to continuously monitor satellites in low Earth orbit.

“Our investment and activities in New Zealand, including the Kiwi Space Radar, have been a string of successes, both in terms of supporting the goals of MBIE, but also of projecting New Zealand onto the global stage as a leader in space sustainability,” said Dan Ceperley, CEO and co-Founder of LeoLabs.

“We appreciate the opportunity now to take this to another level and operationalize the Space Regulatory and Sustainability Platform. This is truly a model for every other space agency around the world.”

Following a pilot phase, the platform is now fully embedded into the operations of the New Zealand Space Agency which can track the position and orbit of individual satellites and where they’re heading, view historical orbit records, obtain reports on changes in a satellite’s orbit and receive alerts when a satellite is not complying with its licensing agreement. The partnership between MBIE and Leolabs was brokered through the Innovative Partnerships programme, and in October 2019 saw LeoLabs unveil their first ‘next-generation’ space radar in Naseby, Central Otago. The phased-array radar tracks small satellites and space debris – the first of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere.

“Our partnership with LeoLabs helps put us at the forefront of monitoring satellites and taking a sustainable approach to the use of space. We look forward to continuing to work together in the years ahead,” says Dr Peter Crabtree.