New Zealand goes into space

By on 19 November, 2019

The government of New Zealand will contribute NZ$26 million towards MethaneSAT, a satellite designed to detect global methane emissions with high accuracy. The mission is being led by United States-based NGO Environmental Defence Fund (EDF) and its subsidiary MethaneSAT LLC, who have signed a partnership agreement with the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.

Dr Peter Crabtree, GM of Science, Innovation and International at MBIE and head of the New Zealand Space Agency, said that MethaneSAT is exactly the kind of science that New Zealand should be investing in.

“This investment has three key benefits for New Zealand – we are showing global leadership by investing in a science mission that will directly help fight climate change, we are giving Kiwi researchers the opportunity to join a cutting-edge climate science mission that will see them working alongside the world’s best climate scientists and aerospace experts, and we are building important capability in our rapidly growing space sector,” Dr Crabtree said.

“New Zealand already makes significant investments in climate science and in research to reduce domestic greenhouse gas emissions. We will be building on these efforts by working with EDF, which has a proven track record in conducting excellent science to inform decision-making.”

EDF chief executive Fred Krupp said the New Zealand Government is an ideal mission partner because both parties share values that underpin the mission’s purpose.

“Environmental Defence Fund is a highly professional organisation with a proven track record in conducting excellent science to inform evidence-based decision making by governments and industry,” Mr Krupp said.

“We share values related to environmental leadership, transparency, accountability, and a commitment to performing excellent research.”

Dr Crabtree said New Zealand’s space sector has a spirit of innovative thinking that guided the decision to partner with EDF.

“EDF are following global best practice in mission planning and have brought together a high-calibre team with deep space sector expertise to deliver and oversee the mission.”

While EDF and MethaneSAT are initially focused on collecting data about methane emissions from the oil and gas industry, Dr Crabtree said New Zealand will work with EDF to consider how it might use the data to investigate and potentially lead an atmospheric science component of the mission related to agricultural methane emissions.

MethaneSAT is scheduled to launch in 2022. MBIE and EDF will confirm the location of the New Zealand-based mission control centre and New Zealand’s role in the launch and the science components of the mission in coming months.

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