Project Tāwhaki aerospace partnership 🚀

It’s been a week of aerospace and future transport announcements. This month’s Aerospace Christchurch Meetup featured a ‘preparation for Mars’ theme, with interesting presentations from UC’s Dr Sarah Kessans and Dr Allan Scott, Jim Collins (Complete 3D), Miranda Sattherwaite (International Antarctic Centre), and Michael Tecofsky (RF Test Solutions).

Linda Falwasser (Tāwhaki Joint Venture) with Minister Hon Dr Megan Woods Zooming in announced the new aerospace joint venture Project Tāwhaki, with Kate Breach (New Zealand Space Agency) sharing recent initiatives. And it was champagne all round thanks to Shaun Johnson (Merlin Labs) in celebration of some serious deals across the line. 

These include:

  • The launch of Project Tāwhaki, which gives the green light for the development of aerospace facilities in Canterbury
  • Signing of the Artemis Accords. NZ became the 11th country to join with the purpose of establishing a practical set of principles to guide space exploration cooperation with NASA
  • Merlin Labs emerged from stealth mode, confirming $25m of backing from Google ventures with Shaun Johnson leading the NZ team. Positioning itself as ‘the definitive autonomy platform for things that fly’, Merlin develops autonomous systems that fly airplanes and has signed a deal to outfit 55 twin-turboprop King Air planes with AI flight systems
  • Dawn Aerospace confirmed “significant backing” from Movac. NZ’s Hi-tech Startup Company of the Year last year, they make satellite propulsion products and have developed an unmanned spaceplane the Mk-II Aurora. The company has bases in both Ōtautahi, Christchurch and in the Netherlands
  • Kea Aerospace’s Mark Rocket confirmed funding for Kea Atmos, a state-of-the-art remotely piloted, solar-powered aircraft to collect frequent, high-resolution aerial images. They joined the Airspace Integration Trials in November last year, and have announced a hiring spree so get your resume in quickly!

Project Tāwhaki

The Hon Dr Megan Woods Zoomed in to the Aerospace Meetup to announce the local development of aerospace research facilities, including a launch pad. A block of land on the Kaitōrete Spit has been bought by a joint venture between the government and two local rūnanga, Te Taumutu Rūnanga and Warewa Rūnanga, called Project Tāwhaki. Aerospace is one of Christchurch’s ‘supernodes’, and Canterbury is the first region to develop an aerospace sector plan. This unique commercial partnership will rejuvenate the environment, honour deep cultural and historical links, and build sustainable economic opportunities in the sector.  It’s an exciting announcement for the region.

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Artemis Accords

Aotearoa NZ’s Space Agency has helped craft the principles within the Artemis Accords, governing best practices for space exploration activities. According to NASA, these accords outline a set of principles for safe and sustainable space exploration activities, from transparency and interoperability to the exchange of scientific data and mitigation of orbital debris. Many of those principles are linked to the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 and other international agreements. 

We’ve become the 11th country to join, and it’s a real acknowledgment of our geographic and innovation advantages in this sector. Aerospace is a growing industry in Aotearoa, already contributing over $1.7b to our economy each year.

Aerospace careers

Speaking of aerospace careers, Aerospace Christchurch launched its ‘Career Lift-off Mentoring Programme’ with the indomitable Vickie Harman giving the lowdown on the 12-week support available for those looking for their first aerospace job.

University of Canterbury’s hotbed of engineering talent developing aerospace capabilities is also launching a ‘Masters of Planetary and Space Studies’ in 2023. This will be a multi-disciplinary program looking at all aspects of mission support including engineering, biology, geology, law, and economics. UC is currently seeking involvement from industry and Government. 

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So….plenty happening in the sector! Check out the next Aerospace Meetup, and catch you there.