UC partners in city’s plan to takeoff in NZ’s aerospace

27 November 2019

Working with the University of Canterbury, Christchurch aims to be at the centre of New Zealand’s burgeoning aerospace sector by 2025, according to the city’s new aerospace strategic plan. UC research and facilities have the potential to make it easier, faster and cheaper to launch rockets into space, with wide-ranging benefits for other technology.

  • KessansNASA

    University of Canterbury academic Dr Sarah Kessans, who was in the top 1% of applicants shortlisted by NASA to become an astronaut for NASA’s Astronaut Candidate Class of 2017, is seen here during her time in NASA's Johnson Space Centre (JSC) in Houston, Texas.

Working with the University of Canterbury (UC), Christchurch aims to be at the centre of New Zealand’s burgeoning aerospace sector by 2025, according to the city’s new aerospace strategic plan. UC research and facilities have the potential to make it easier, faster and cheaper to launch rockets into space, with wide-ranging benefits for other technology.

The five-year plan sets out nine goals and associated actions for the city’s aerospace sector, based around four themes:

  • Knowledge sharing
  • Innovation and test-bed capabilities
  • Pathways to attract and expand businesses
  • Education and training

Actions under each of these themes include working with UC to extend the use of the university’s existing testing facilities, identifying locations in Canterbury for further test facilities, creating a prospectus for aerospace start-ups to enable efficient uptake of the city’s resources, regulatory pre-approval of flight zones, financial incentives for aerospace businesses and scholarship and education programmes. 

Earlier this year, UC students were involved in an experimental microbiology launch (Canterbury researchers rocket into astrobiology), and a team of UC students, UC Aerospace, competed in the inaugural Australian Universities Rocket Competition, the only New Zealand team competing against 19 Australian university teams. The UC students were assisted by UC staff, including Dr Sarah Kessans, who was a finalist for NASA’s Astronaut Candidate Class of 2017 and was recently funded $500,000 to conduct biological experiments in space. This year UC students also learnt from UC Erskine Fellow, NASA Senior Engineer Tim Atkins on the future of deep space exploration (video of his 2019 public talk is here).

Mark Rocket, Chair of the Christchurch Aerospace Centre, has been involved in the instigation of the plan and believes Christchurch is well-placed to deliver on the ambitious goals for 2025.

“The city contains the essential elements for success in the aerospace industry, we have a well-connected sector that spans the breadth of the production process from development and design, testing, prototyping and assembly through to launch and data analytics. Christchurch is currently a major international gateway to the Antarctic and there's an exciting future pathway ahead where Christchurch could also be a gateway to space,” Rocket said.

Rocket co-founded Kea Aerospace with UC Engineering PhD graduate, Dr Philipp Sueltrop, who gained his doctorate in Electrical and Computer Engineering in UC’s College of Engineering, working to prevent the effects of fuel slosh in rockets using mathematical algorithms, by predicting movement and adjusting the flight movement before fuel slosh becomes a problem.

Kea Aerospace is a research partner with UC, co-located in the UC Centre for Entrepreneurship.

As well as supporting aerospace start-ups and using UC’s existing testing facilities, labs and test ranges, there are strategic aims to investigate the establishment of a Space Research Centre to provide R&D focus and expertise, as well as participate in key space events and conferences, to establish undergraduate and postgraduate programmes to support both aerospace or aeronautical engineering and aerospace science, and to continue to strengthen the relationship between industry and the tertiary sector by establishing aerospace internships and work experience programmes at UC.

  • Philipp

    University of Canterbury graduate Dr Philipp Sueltrop, who earned his PhD working to prevent the effects of fuel slosh in rockets using mathematical algorithms, co-founded Kea Aerospace with Mark Rocket.

For further information please contact:

UC Communications team, media@canterbury.ac.nz, Ph: (03) 369 3631 or 027 503 0168

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