Christchurch’s Aerospace Meetup #2 was exceptional. One of my favourite entrepreneur’s, Mark Rocket, started us off
Mark Rocket is the first Kiwi to reserve a spot in space, due to go next year! And he was co-director with Peter Beck at the founding of Rocket Labs, has a successful marketing firm near us called Avatar, and has now started up a new venture, Kea Aerospace. He has a tale to tell all his own, but I’ll leave that for another day. Because the next presentations were fascinating.
I had no idea New Zealand was so ideally suited to Aerospace development. Our geography, government transparency, technical ecosystem and proven capabilities all lend themselves to space development on a shoe string. And they really can be on a shoe string, as the students of Cashmere high have committed to sending a CubeSat into space!
David Wright is an engineering consultant who has recently returned from California. He’s worked on a range of CubeSat projects, both during his time at Stanford University and in industry. He discussed the details and benefits of CubeSats and the opportunities the could provide New Zealand's emerging space economy.
What is a CubeSat you ask? Utilising the payload of a launch vehicle (rocket) efficiently requires having a form factor for satellites that allows many of them to housed in a small space. The initial attempts at modular development used a casing about the size of a VHS recorder, which is about the size of a DVR of today. But that was too flat, so a 100mm cube was standardised, as modules could be developed in the packaging of a Bean Babie from the nineties. “I thought, maybe if I make this small enough, they can’t keep putting stuff in it,” Twiggs told NASA Edge. “I knew I had to have a cube, because we were not stabilizing these, and I needed to put solar panels on all six sides. At a plastics shop I found a four-inch Beanie Baby box.” Oddly enough that revolutionised the space industry!
Then Philipp Sueltrop, a Doctoral student at Canterbury University, talked about why Canterbury's journey to space and why rocket research is different in New Zealand. He mentioned what UC Rocketry research group does, and what conditions here in NZ make it different in comparison to everyone else in the world. He also highlighted his work 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.
Matthew Fukert then gave an overview of the projects being undertaken by the University of Canterbury student rocketry club. These include developments occurring over the next 12 months and opportunities for local industry to become involved. Matthew is founder of the student based rocketry club at UC and is creating a team to compete in international rocketry competitions. Did you know that the UC Rocketry Club is competing in the Thunda Down Under 2019? Apparently it’s amazingly difficult to get to exactly 30,000 feet! And their “Out of the Blue” two stage rocket is trying to be the first student rocket to the Karman Line, which is the theoretical boundary between the atmosphere and space (100 kms up!).
ChristchurchNZ is doing some great work to create a community around all of our disparite aerospace startups, and there are some great tales to tell. Kea Aerospace is developing prototypes for Aerospace, as well as partnering with the University and ChristchurchNZ to support the meetups. Mark has a vision for Spaceport Christchurch, to sit alongside our gateway to Antartica! Check out more here- Christchurch Aero Space Center.
Who knew? I didn’t, so join us at the next Aerospace meetup! Maybe I can talk about the Hercules’s Pegasus rocket motor development next time!