Te Pūnaha Ātea - Space Institute

We are a multi-faculty space science and engineering centre that strives to maximise opportunities which arise from the flourishing local space sector.

View of Earth from space

Te Pūnaha Ātea - Space Institute was created in 2019 as a multi-faculty space science & engineering initiative, with the purpose of harnessing the potential of the flourishing local space sector. Our expertise includes a capability to execute space missions and develop applications. 

Aotearoa New Zealand is increasingly reliant on space technologies, from satellite navigation to weather forecasting and telecommunications. Our mission is to create, disseminate and exploit knowledge to support and enhance the development of the New Zealand Space Sector.

Our research

The University of Auckland is well-placed to lead efforts in developing the national space conversation and economy, as well as research activities to underpin the development and commercialisation of new technologies.

Te Pūnaha Ātea - Space Institute currently brings together world-renowned experts in complementary space sector disciplines, creating an end-to-end capability in space missions - from original concepts to hardware development, to in-orbit operations.

We carry out world-class, externally-funded research, including:

  • Satellite electric propulsion
  • Material science for sample return
  • Spacecraft structures and mechanisms
  • Synthetic aperture radar technology development
  • Optical telecommunications
  • Space trajectory optimisation  
  • Spacecraft guidance, navigation, and control
  • Space situational awareness 
  • Space sustainability

The institute aims to become a leading centre to enable the safe and sustainable use of space – a necessary condition for future space economy growth and threatened by increasing space debris. Our research brings societal benefit by guaranteeing the long-term availability of space services, further unlocking New Zealand’s potential.

Our seamless end-to-end capability also provides our students with an exceptional learning experience, which, enhanced by our close partnerships with industry, puts them in a privileged position to meet the employment demands of a growing international aerospace sector.

Our facilities

Mission Operations Control Centre (MOCC)

The Mission Operation Control Centre (MOCC) offers support for in-house and external space missions and educational activities:

  • Mission Control System to plan missions & control spacecraft in flight operations
  • Mission Data Centre to host and disseminate received mission payload data
  • RF ground stations to communicate with satellites plus connectivity to external GS networks

Fabrication, Assembly Facility and Cleanroom (FAF) 

The Fabrication and Assembly Facility is a versatile, large lab space (165m2), reconfigurable for a variety of projects, from student final year projects to development of Flight Hardware for in-house activities and external partners. 

It includes a 40m2 ISO Class 7 cleanroom, to develop and functionally test new space hardware.

The facility is also comprised of separate partitioned sections, including a
‘Rough Lab’ for mechanical workshop activities, an electronics fabrication and non-flight
optics lab, as well as a large floor area for deployable structure testing.

National Satellite Test Facility (NSTF)

The National Satellite Test Facility offers full end-to-end testing capability to support activities from concept development to qualification to acceptance of hardware for space and other applications, to troubleshooting, for internal university (R&D and education) and external companies.

Our facility can handle hardware up to 50 kg and with 0.5m x 0.5m x 0.5m volume and
tests compliant with relevant standards – NASA, ESA etc. (Note that heavier and larger items can be tested, with achieved accelerations levels depending on the mass of the item). Please contact us to discuss your requirements. 

How can you work with us?

At Te Pūnaha Ātea – Space Institute, we have end-to-end capability to develop space hardware and deliver space missions. We carry out applied research in space science, engineering, as well as run educational activities that shape the next generation of scientists and engineers. 

Working from original ideas, to modelling, to proof of concept (Manufacture, Assembly, Integration and Test), to in-orbit demonstrations, we apply research findings to develop engineering solutions that support the growth of new and existing enterprises.

We also carry out projects in partnership with external organisations. 

Our facilities and expertise are available to support work for external organisations and companies as clients or partners, depending on their requirements.

If you are interested in working with us, please contact our centre's Director and Research Operations team.

Our people

Professor Guglielmo Aglietti

Research Operations Manager
Catherine Qualtrough

Research Operations Coordinator
Laila Sabardin

Mission Operations Centre Director
Chris Jackson

National Satellite Test Facility Manager
Emanuele Romano

Our commitment to Te Tiriti o Waitangi 

Space-based activity within Aotearoa engages with Te Ao Māori in multiple ways, all of which will be actively developed within Te Pūnaha Ātea - Space Institute. This includes developing capacity to use data gathered from space-based assets to enable enterprises in the horticulture, fisheries, farming and forestry sectors which include many iwi-owned or operated businesses.

Space also provides unique challenges and opportunities to exercise kaitiakitanga, including through monitoring of the terrestrial environment, rivers, lakes, and oceans (Taiao Theme) and the stewardship of the space environment itself. 

We are actively developing capacity, with the establishment of the MethaneSAT MOCC outreach programme which involves working with Pūhoro STEMM to provide educational opportunities (including dedicated studentships) for rangatahi, and with staff actively engaging with the Tuhura Tuarangi – Aotearoa in Space Showcase.