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LeoLabs And New Zealand Space Agency Partner To Create Space Regulatory And Sustainability Platform

New Zealand as seen from low-earth orbit. Photograph courtesy of NASA.

LeoLabs, Inc., the leading commercial provider of Low Earth Orbit (LEO) mapping and Space Situational Awareness (SSA) services announced on 25 June 2019 the world’s first dedicated regulatory platform for LEO: the Space Regulatory and Sustainability Platform, developed as a joint initiative between LeoLabs and the New Zealand Space Agency (NZSA). The NZSA is a leader in best practices and industry standards for promoting, regulating, and guiding the global new space community. The regulatory platform offers a ground-breaking set of capabilities to empower the New Zealand government to meet its stated mission of encouraging a sustainable space environment for future generations.

LEO is rapidly emerging as the focus of commercial activity in space, with thousands of new satellites spawning unprecedented generations of services. Against this backdrop is the risk posed by orbital space debris – including an estimated 250,000 dangerous objects that are currently untracked.  An expected growth in satellite constellations requires space-faring nations such as New Zealand to engage in monitoring and regulating satellite activity.

The Space Regulatory and Sustainability Platform provides cloud-based services based on LeoLabs’ network of global sensors. Observations from this network are then processed via the LeoLabs mapping and SaaS platform which analyzes and delivers operational and compliance information to the New Zealand regulatory and space agency. The platform monitors satellites launched from New Zealand. Examples of services provided by this platform include:

  • Tracking of the current position, heading and orbit of each individual satellite that, in map form, show the satellite’s location and ground track;
  • Historical records of the satellite’s orbit (e.g., apogee, perigee, and inclination);
  • Reports of changes in the satellite’s orbit relative to plan over time;
  • The ability to set and monitor orbit changes against regulatory limits for each satellite and alert the NZSA when a satellite is outside prescribed compliance parameters.

The announcement is part of a larger joint vision between the New Zealand government and LeoLabs around space. In September 2018, LeoLabs and MBIE (Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment) announced a broad-based Memorandum of Understanding (MOU. Key elements of that MOU included working together on space-related R&D and services for the rapidly growing New Zealand space community, as well as expansion of LeoLabs’ space radar network into New Zealand. The regulatory platform illustrates the implementation of that MOU.

“The mission of the NZSA is to provide leadership and regulatory oversight for our rapidly expanding space sector,” said Dr. Peter Crabtree, head of the New Zealand Space Agency. “Critical to achieving this mission is putting in place the tools and capability to monitor and ensure responsible and sustainable behavior. The Space Regulatory and Sustainability Platform developed with LeoLabs is a significant achievement in this direction and demonstrates current best practices within the commercial space regulatory arena. It also affirms our intent to be proactive in addressing the preservation of space for future generations.”

“From Washington to Wellington, space regulatory agencies around the globe are engaged in the urgent task of designing forward-thinking regulatory architectures,” emphasized Dr. Crabtree. “As a new era of transparency in LEO emerges, LeoLabs and our space agency will continue to prove state-of-the-art regulatory practices to keep pace with the changing requirements of space commercialization.”

“LeoLabs is extremely pleased to partner with the New Zealand Space Agency on this initiative,” said Dr. Mike Nicolls, co-founder and Chief Technology Officer at LeoLabs. “They have clearly demonstrated a proactive approach to executing their mission, both from an operational as well as policy perspective. Our core LeoLabs platform can inform and accelerate all of that, and the announcement today is just the beginning of a journey together to make a difference.”

“LeoLabs also believes,” continued Dr. Nicolls, “that the visualization and analytics tools built for NZSA regulatory mission have broader applicability for all space agencies, and thus the potential to contribute to global best practices. Every nation, large or small, who engages in space will need to monitor and ensure responsible behavior by its commercial and national fleet. So we look forward together with New Zealand to sharing our progress with others across the international space community.”

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