Aerospace Christchurch & Aerospace New Zealand

Aerospace Christchurch & Aerospace New Zealand

Aerospace Christchurch is updating our branding to recognise and separate our national projects. We’ll still be active in the Canterbury region working under the Aerospace Christchurch brand, but our national projects will now use the Aerospace New Zealand brand. This is an exciting opportunity to expand our reach and showcase the strength of Aotearoa’s aerospace industry, while still continuing to grow the sector in Ōtautahi. Our goal is to create a unified, national organisation that encourages sector growth and is encapsulated in our key message “building an aerospace nation”

We will be interacting with a broader audience, encompassing the entirety of Aotearoa New Zealand. We will continue to cultivate relationships with both existing and future associates, sponsors and partners, as well as the wider public, including students, educators and aerospace enthusiasts. Our goal is to “connect people and build an inclusive and sustainable aerospace industry that aligns with Aotearoa New Zealand’s values in enabling environmental and social outcomes that improve the well-being of all New Zealanders.” Aerospace New Zealand will continually engage with iwi to ensure the incorporation of Mana Whenua and Te Ao Maori. 

Both Aerospace New Zealand and Aerospace Christchurch’s mission, vision and values have been revised to suit our current goals better. These are outlined below: 

Aerospace New ZealandAerospace Christchurch
Mission and Purpose
Grow a thriving Aotearoa New Zealand aerospace ecosystem that is highly regarded around the world. Develop a world-class aerospace sector that incorporates industry, education and national government. To be a unified aerospace organisation that encourages equitable business development, encapsulated in the tagline “Building an aerospace nation”.
Mission and Purpose
Develop a world-class aerospace sector with Christchurch as the hub, that incorporates industry, education and local government. To be a unified aerospace organisation, fostering whakawhanaungatanga, whilst encouraging and supporting business development.
In 2030 Aotearoa New Zealand will be globally recognised as a major Southern Hemisphere gateway to space and in advanced aviation development, achieving positive future outcomes for hapori whānui (our community) and the aerospace ecosystem.
In 2030 “Spaceport Christchurch” will be a major Southern Hemisphere gateway to space and a hub for advanced aviation development.
Connect people. Build an inclusive and sustainable aerospace industry that aligns with Aotearoa New Zealand’s values in enabling environmental and social outcomes that improve the well-being of all New Zealanders. This includes:Diversity and InclusionSustainable DevelopmentKaitiakitanga (to care for people and places on behalf of future generations)Cooperation and Collaboration
Build an inclusive and sustainable Ōtautahi Christchurch aerospace cluster that contributes to the stated intent of Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu: Mō tātou, ā, mō kā uri ā muri ake nei – for us and our children after us.

We have revised our social media handles, logos and marketing materials to reflect this shift. We are developing a new website that will be able to be accessed at Please ensure you follow us on all social media platforms at AerospaceOrgNZ. Click the icons below to make sure you keep up to date with all of our activities!

Please note that our website is currently under development – please continue to use in the meantime!

The majority of these changes will take place over the next few months, with more information on how this will impact our associates to come. Keep an eye out for this information via your mail inbox.

Meet Aotearoa’s researchers pioneering spacecraft thrust

Meet Aotearoa’s researchers pioneering spacecraft thrust

Aerospace New Zealand had the pleasure of visiting Victoria University at Wellington’s Paihau—Robinson Research Institute this past December.

This was a unique opportunity to have a peek at the latest ground-breaking discoveries in Space Propulsion. Taking us on this exciting tour were Senior Principal Engineer Betina Pavri and Chief Engineer for Space Randy Pollock. Researchers at Robinson are acknowledged as world leaders in the application of high temperature superconducting magnets to fields such as aerospace, quantum computing, and medicine. Superconductors are materials that conduct electricity with no resistance… though, the “high temperatures” for these superconductors are approximately -200°C! Currently, Robinson’s researchers are pioneering ways to improve the efficiency of spacecraft thrusters with these advanced magnets. Using high temperature superconducting materials to create powerful magnetic fields requires far less power and mass than traditional magnet designs, making them a good fit for space applications.

Victoria Harman, and Rushil Gentejohann from Aerospace New Zealand with Chief Engineer Space, Randy Pollock and Senior Principal Engineer Betina Pavri

To validate the new technology, the Robinson team plans to demonstrate that the magnet and power supply – the most novel parts of the system – can be successfully operated in space. They are designing an experiment for the International Space Station and have named this demonstration mission Hēki, the Māori word for “egg”, to symbolise its potential for growth (and eventual flight).  

Each team member at Robinson brings years of expertise to the Hēki mission: Principal investigator Nick Long brings his skills in both research and management to the team, and is also Director of Paihau-Robinson. Nick Strickland leads development of the ground-breaking high temperature superconducting magnet, while Ben Mallett is designing its novel power supply. Jamal Olatunji leads the team’s thermal and magnetic modelling efforts for the space experiment, and Max Goddard-Winchester has taken on the challenge of the mechanical design, including creation of the magnet coils themselves. All of these just some examples of the experience and effort going into the Hēki mission.

C.A.R.P.E A.S.T.R.A – One of the Vacuum Chambers used in researching spacecraft thrust

Randy and Betina both previously worked at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and joined the staff at Robinson in 2022 to bring their expertise in space flight development to the team. While Robinson is the centre of Hēki mission planning, collaborators from IDS Consulting, Asteria Engineering, University of Auckland, and University of Canterbury are also vital to making the mission a success. 

As we were shown around the modern laboratory, two large vacuum chambers demonstrate the team’s commitment to both good science and a sense of fun. The largest chamber is called ‘G.E.R.A.L.D.I.N.E,’ standing for ‘Gigantic and Extremely Radical Atmosphere Lacking Device for Interesting and Novel Experimentation’. To the side, a slightly smaller Vacuum Chamber called ‘C.A.R.P.E – A.S.T.R.A,’ sits, which stands for ‘Cuboidal and Relatively Petite Entity for Allowing Space Technology’s Rapid Advancement.’  

It’s evident that researchers at Paihau-Robinson Research Institute are making significant progress advancing high temperature superconducting applications, while maintaining high spirits and standards while revolutionizing propulsion in space.

Meet Up #26 Over and Out

Meet Up #26 Over and Out

At this months Meet Up, we had updates on a number of different projects and speakers from a wide variety of Aerospace fields.

Associates can check out the recording here:

If you’re not an associate, we’d love for you to join us! Register here:

A special thank you to our Event Sponsor University of Canterbury.

This months meetup included these presentations:

Committee Update: Roland Sommer

Speaker 1: Karl Bridges, HFEx (Human Factors) 

Speaker 2: Prof Richard Green, University of Canterbury

Speaker 3: UC Aerospace Club

Speaker 4: Charlotte Becconsall, Limited

Speaker 5: James Powell, Dawn Aerospace

Roland Sommer, Aerospace Christchurch Committee
Karl Bridges, HFEx
Professor Richard Green, University of Canterbury
UC Aerospace Club on Spaceport America
James Powell, Dawn Aerospace
Aotearoa New Zealand’s First Space Radar

Aotearoa New Zealand’s First Space Radar

US based LeoLabs chose Ruamoko Innovation for their expertise to build the first Space Radar in Aotearoa New Zealand

LeoLabs is a provider of commercial radar tracking services for objects in Low Earth Orbit. They aim to build a network of over 20 radars to protect satellites and other objects in low earth orbit from collisions with debris. Aerospace Christchurch had the privilege to speak to Ruamoko Innovation’s Managing Director, Julian Ramsay. Ruamoko Innovation delivered Engineering Consulting Services for the design of the space radar structures, and is working with LeoLabs to deliver a ‘next generation of (space) radars.’

The Kiwi Space Radar based in Naseby, Central Otago. Credit: LeoLabs

When asked about Ruamoko’s involvement with the project, Ramsay mentioned ‘Ruamoko delivers primarily the Engineering Consulting for the design of the space radar structures, this includes input on the locating, positioning, foundations and superstructure, civil engineering design for each global site.’ He specifically noted the increased complexity due to the international nature of building Space Radar’s with LeoLabs.

‘Our role is much broader than it would typically be for a building as the radars must be built with incredibly low tolerances for operational movement. Each site is completely different, and we are usually bound by a completely new set of local regulations at each site.’

Ruamoko Innovation’s Managing Director Julian Ramsay
Managing Director Julian Ramsay (left) and Senior Engineer Chris Watson (right) pictured at the opening of the Kiwi Space Radar. Credit: Ruamoko Innovation

‘The most enjoyable part of the project is having a direct impact on the accuracy of the space debris mapping, and working with the project team. Our work has led to a genuine improvement in locating space debris with greater accuracy,’ Ramsay says. When Russia fired a space missile into its own satellite in November 2021, it was the Kiwi Space Radar that picked up the debris. This debris lead to the seven-member ISS crew to take shelter in the docked capsule for hours, as a precaution.

We asked Ramsay on the specific differences between typical structural engineering projects Ruamoko would be working on compared to the Kiwi Space Radar. “The radar projects involve a much wider scope than typical structural engineering, and the structures are governed by a performance based specification (which we helped to define) rather than a safety governed criteria. Obviously safety is checked, but doesn’t typically govern the design of the structures.”

‘We work extremely closely with LeoLabs in refining every detail to ensure absolute best performance from the radars, whilst taking into account constructability, durability of dissimilar materials, thermal effects etc’

Ruamoko Innovation’s Managing Director Julian Ramsay
The Kiwi Space Radar based in Naseby, Central Otago. Credit: LeoLabs

Ramsay noted the possibilities for growth in the Aerospace Sector right here in Aotearoa New Zealand. ‘Globally there is an ever increasing focus on sustainability and there is no doubt that the space and technology sector will be hugely important in helping this cause. The NZ space sector is worth approximately $1.7b per year to the NZ economy and is only going to increase. Ruamoko Innovation is very excited about growing opportunities in this sector and with the increasing number of space and technology projects on our books we can only see us becoming more involved in this sector.’

‘In addition, aerospace has been nominated as one of Christchurch’s “Global Growth Opportunity Cluster” sectors, and Canterbury will be the first region to develop an aerospace sector plan to grow and nurture the industry, with the goal being that Canterbury is New Zealand’s main aerospace testbed by 2025.’

Ruamoko Innovations involvement with LeoLabs proves that NZ firms can have a meaningful and real input into the global space sector. Our experience has shown that having the right “can-do” kiwi attitude is of real value, and has seen us continue our relationship on several other projects.

Ruamoko Innovation’s Managing Director Julian Ramsay

Ruamoko Innovation also won one of the Ace Awards in 2020, for their work on the Kiwi Space Radar

Managing Director Julian Ramsay and Senior Engineer Chris Watson pictured at the 2020 Ace Awards. Credit: AceNZ

We questioned Ramsay on how he got to where he is now, to which he said ‘I studied structural engineering at the University of Canterbury and started a company Ruamoko Solutions shortly after graduating and prior to the Christchurch earthquakes in 2011. The earthquakes were a turning point which allowed us to focus on bespoke and creative solutions to complex problems, and our company won a number of awards for innovation, particularly in new seismic technology. Taking the same innovative approach, and using some of Ruamoko Solutions wealth of talented staff who are gifted in a pragmatic yet highly technical engineering approach, we started a sister company called Ruamoko Innovation to deal specifically with space and defense type projects.’

Ruamoko Innovation and the New Zealand Space Radar are just another example of a Kiwi success in the Aerospace Sector. Furthermore, they are evidence of the significant growth and opportunities for the Aerospace Sector, not only in Canterbury but also across Aotearoa New Zealand.

Check out LeoLabs visualisation here.

Aotearoa New Zealand’s Inaugural Aerospace Summit

Aotearoa New Zealand’s Inaugural Aerospace Summit

Recently we held our inaugural New Zealand Aerospace Summit at Te Pae in Ōtautahi Christchurch. The event brought together individuals from every walk of Aerospace, to showcase some of the latest and greatest innovations happening right here in Aotearoa New Zealand. Some of our keynote speakers included Deputy Director of NASA, Pamela Melroy, and Peter Beck from Rocket Lab, and in addition to keynote speakers, we also hosted a number of panel discussions spanning everything from Women in Space to Aerospace and High-Altitude Policy. Be sure to check out the post-event recap video here!


The New Zealand Aerospace Summit was the very first of its kind, being the first Aerospace Summit held here in Aotearoa New Zealand. With over 300 attendees, from startups, businesses, individuals and passionate students, it’s clear to see that the Aerospace Sector is already taking off. In addition to our already jam-packed lineup of speakers and panels, we included a unique chance for a showcase of Aerospace in New Zealand, through an exhibition room, with actual prototypes from Wisk, Dawn Aerospace, Pyper Vision and Kea Aerospace.

The event opened with a Mihi Whakatau, and speeches from Mayor Dalziel, Kea Aerospace CEO Mark Rocket and NASA Deputy Director Pamela Melroy.

I’m so personally thrilled to be speaking to the New Zealand Space Community because you WILL be a critical part of the future

NASA Deputy Director Pamela Melroy on the Aerospace Industry in Aotearoa New Zealand
NASA Deputy Administrator Pamela Melroy speaking to the NZAS

Following the Deputy Director Pamela Melroy’s speech, our second keynote speaker, Peter Beck, CEO and Founder of Rocket Lab delivered another powerful speech on the opportunities that the Aerospace Sector represents, not only to the economy, but also to further humanities reach to the stars. He mentioned a number of projects that Rocket Lab were working on, including a brand new rocket called ‘Neutron,’ but also highlighted the achievements made so far, including the establishment of the Launch Complex on the Mahia Peninsula.

‘I think New Zealand has a huge opportunity in the Space Industry, and if you look across other nations, quite frankly a lot of them look across to New Zealand in absolute admiration’

Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck on Leaders in the Space industry
Minister Nash announcing the Government plan for Aerospace

Following various engaging panels were Minister Nash and Minister Verrall, announcing a brand new Government funding plan for the sector. Minister Nash mentioning ‘Christchurch IS a hub of Aerospace,’ and backing up his support of the sector announcing ‘The Government is pursuing a range of measures to support economic growth, including 8 industry transformation plans that set out a joint path for sectors and the government to grow priority areas of the economy.’

‘The Aerospace Sector is a prime example of the type of innovative high value, R&D intensive industry that can deliver on these goals’

Minister Nash on growing Priority Areas of the Economy
Minister Nash and Minister Verrall with President of Aerospace Christchurch, and Kea Aerospace CEO Mark Rocket

But fear not, the summit was not all speeches and panels, with two networking, and food breaks on the day, and a further post-summit networking drinks event. In addition to the breaks, we put on a number of truly ‘out of this world’ performances, with breakdancing Stormtroopers, alongside a band playing the Star Wars theme, and a performance of David Bowie’s ‘Starman’ and ‘Space Oddity.’ Furthermore reinforcing the importance of Matariki, a performance in a Harakeke was presented. The Harakeke weave symbolizing the gathering of people, the weave of community, culture, past, present and future.

The Harakeke Dress Performance

We look forward to hosting our Aerospace Whānau again next year, with a bigger and better summit next year!

Farewell to NASA’s SOFIA

Farewell to NASA’s SOFIA

NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) is being farewelled after ten years of science in the skies with its final visit to Christchurch

This was SOFIA’s seventh visit to Christchurch, and 15 take-off’s were completed around our Southern skies before heading back to its home base California, with the SOFIA programme ending on September 30. 

The modified Boeing 747 aircraft is a joint project between NASA and the German Aerospace Centre (DLR) and is fitted out with a special door built to open mid-flight for use of observational instruments, including a 2.7 metre reflecting telescope.

Flying above 99 percent of the water vapour in Earth’s atmosphere at 38,000 – 45,000 feet, SOFIA is able to collect infrared radiation, which is absorbed by water vapour and doesn’t reach ground-based observatories. SOFIA flies 10-hour overnight missions, and studies a range of objects and phenomena, including cosmic rays, stellar feedback, and cosmic magnetic fields using two instruments – a High-resolution Airborne Wideband Camera Plus (HAWC+), and a German Receiver for Astronomy at Terahertz Frequencies (GREAT).

Image Credit: Instagram.  @sg_planespottingchc  Sophie and Graham

“Prior to moving to Christchurch, I worked for SOFIA as a Science Flight Planner, Mission Director and Mission Operations Manager overseeing the science ground support team,” says Karina Leppik, who worked on SOFIA while it was in Christchurch this year.

While SOFIA is in Christchurch this year, I am helping with various aspects of the mission including flying as an assistant to the Mission Director and assisting with the science ground support, and I’m excited to help the SOFIA team take data that will finish off some groundbreaking science projects.” Just one of the many groundbreaking science projects include HAWC+.

Using HAWC+, SOFIA’s investigations have started by mapping the magnetic fields of the central regions of our galaxy, the Milky Way. Able to detect cosmic magnetic fields on many scales, including star formation scales, SOFIA will be looking at magnetic fields in filaments of material in our galaxy. Filaments are thread-like structures full of cold gas and dust, and a team of scientists will be researching what role magnetic fields play in star formation in filaments ( – SOFIA in NZ).

Image Credit: Instagram.  @sg_planespottingchc  Sophie and Graham

Cosmic rays produced by our sun have been measured and understood by researchers, but those originating outside our solar system are less well understood. Using hydride molecules, scientists are investigating the abundance of cosmic rays in environments outside of our solar system ( – SOFIA in NZ).

However due to unprecedented damage to SOFIA, caused by winds shifting a boarding staircase along the aircraft, the team were unable to complete the expected study using GREAT (German Receiver for Astronomy at Terahertz Frequencies) on Helium Hydride, while in New Zealand.

Image Credit: Instagram.  @sg_planespottingchc  Sophie and Graham

As a part of SOFIA’s final stay in Christchurch, we were able to gain some unique insight with the Deputy Director of SOFIA Science Mission Operations, Bernhard Schulz. 

“SOFIA made New Zealand its temporary home for a last time to take advantage of the unique visibility conditions of the southern skies, as well as the particular low water vapour content of the atmosphere in the southern winter.” 

The water vapour in the air varies depending on the time of year. For example, a pattern observed by NASA’s Earth Observatory shows that water vapour amounts over land areas decrease more in winter months than summer months ( – Water Vapour). 

In addition to the unconventional operating conditions required, SOFIA can switch between 5 unique instruments that are attached to its perhaps last, large, airplane telescope to observe the far-infrared portion (30µm-300µm) of the spectrum. SOFIA’s unique ability to detect polarised dust with a high degree of accuracy, alongside molecular and atomic spectral lines, makes it a scientific tool like no other. 

Image Credit: Instagram.  @sg_planespottingchc  Sophie and Graham

“SOFIA is also complementary to the newly launched James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), which covers the near and mid-infrared up to 28µm,” Bernhard says.

“Even though JWST is a bigger telescope in space and thus far more sensitive, SOFIA still provides additional capabilities in that wavelength range, not available to JWST, like high resolution spectroscopy and bright source imaging.”

There have been many important discoveries made by SOFIA, Bernhard says, but the one most noted in the scientific world was the first observation of Helium Hydride. This was first observed by SOFIA on a mission in Palmdale, USA.

“Helium hydride is deemed to be the first molecule that formed after the Big Bang. SOFIA also detected a number of other species in the interstellar medium for the first time, but also atomic oxygen in the upper atmosphere (mesosphere and thermosphere) of our own planet, which has important implications for climate models.” 

If you’re interested in the other scientific discoveries made by SOFIA, have a look at the brochure on the SOFIA website.

Further Reading:

Christchurch Airport Video Tour of SOFIA – here

NASA SOFIA Image Gallery – here

Image Credit: Instagram.  @sg_planespottingchc  Sophie and Graham