Actually, it is rocket science

22 August 2016

Space is the new frontier at the University of Auckland with the launch of a space systems project where students will design and build a satellite that will be sent into orbit.

The Auckland Program for Space Systems takes an innovative approach that will see multi-disciplinary student teams from across different Faculties working together.

“This project is about creating a culture of cross-Faculty team-work that will see students from Arts for example working with students from Science or Engineering,” says Faculty of Engineering Professional Teaching Fellow Jim Hefkey.

“It is critical that the approach we take within the University reflects the real world where space missions might include everything from astrophysics to archaeology. Complex future problem-solving in all fields, not just space, will require inter-disciplinary teamwork.”

Almost two dozen student teams have entered the space CHALLENG competition to design and build their own CubeSat-sized satellite. Students have volunteered for the project which is over and above their courses of study.

“We’ve had a very enthusiastic response which is great because as space technologies are developing rapidly and decreasing significantly in cost, New Zealand will have a space industry and we need the human resources to help it develop,” Mr Hefkey says.

Each student team will come up with an idea for the mission and the functions they want the satellite to perform. The winning team will qualify to build their satellite and prepare it for flight. Entries will be judged by a panel of academics and industry representatives.

Peter Beck, founder of Rocket Lab, has undertaken to help launch the winning satellite on one of his company’s Electron rockets. The launch will occur from the private orbital launch site Rocket Lab has nearing completion on the Mahia Peninsula, south of Gisborne. The Electron vehicle was designed specifically with the small satellite market in mind - the size of satellite technologies has reduced rapidly in recent years and CubeSats have increased in capability and performance.

Once launched, students will be able to operate the mission from a control centre at the University.


Contact for more information

Anne Beston
Media Relations Adviser,
University of Auckland.

Tel: +64 9 923 3258
Mobile: + 64 (0) 21 970 089