Yesterday the Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce announced that the Centre for Space Science Technology (CSST) has been selected to become New Zealand’s second Regional Research Institute.
The plans include a science and administration base in central Otago supported by regional science hubs around the country, including one in New Plymouth, where specific pieces of research will be done. As one of the founding partners for the initiative, MetOcean Solutions will be involved with New Plymouth's research hub, which will focus on remote sensing of the ocean and atmosphere.
“The Centre for Space Science Technology will undertake research to explore the use of space-based measurements and satellite imagery unique to New Zealand to meet the specific needs of our regional industries,” Mr Joyce says. “It will establish an international satellite data exchange and collaborate with leading researchers and businesses, both here and abroad, to design, build and launch New Zealand’s first fleet of cube satellites.”
MetOcean Solutions is delighted with this outcome. "It represents a new way of using public science funding to actively promote enabling technologies and directly stimulate economic growth," says Managing Director Dr Peter McComb.
"It's firstly about utilising new technology to effectively manage massive data sets and make them readily accessible for specialists in science and industry. The second part is developing applications that turn these rich data sources into useful knowledge, and the key metric of success will be how we can enable NZ businesses and research institutes to use satellite
data more effectively. That truly has the potential to transform our society. The other part of it will develop cube sat missions that are targeted toward NZ-specific applications, and they can be launched from NZ as well as elsewhere in the world.
"We aim to lower the threshold for agencies to access the abundant information from historical and real time satellite data sets. At the moment very specialist skills and equipment is needed to do this, which presents a significant barrier to most. By centralising this capacity for NZ, we will help raise the productivity and economic benefits from satellite data, and
also promote a national space-based economy for the benefit of all regions in NZ.
"Very specific products and data sets will be produced from the New Plymouth CSST hub - such as high resolution maps of ocean turbidity. Water clarity has a huge impact on the coastal marine ecology, and satellites can be used to monitor the effect of terrestrial runoff and river plumes on a daily basis. We can also observe the oceanic boundaries between water masses which is helpful in fisheries management. In fact, the use of satellite data is really only limited by our imagination, and the new generation of sensors provide outstanding opportunities. Another example is the Himawari8 weather satellite that monitors the skies over NZ every 2.5 minutes – we can now watch the atmospheric convection bubbling away in near real time. That opens up the next generation of short range weather forecasting capability.“
In New Plymouth, a team of CSST geospatial scientists will be co-located with the oceanographers at MetOcean Solutions, and there will be a close association with the Nelson-based Cawthron Institute.