WELLINGTON, Nov. 15 (Xinhua) -- The New Zealand government Tuesday announced it was backing a satellite development center as another key stepping stone in building a national space economy.
The Center for Space Science Technology (CSST) would establish an international satellite data exchange and collaborate with leading researchers and businesses, in New Zealand and abroad, to design, build and launch New Zealand's first fleet of cube satellites, said Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce.
The CSST would be based in Alexandra, in the South Island's Otago region and undertake research to explore the use of space-based measurements and satellite imagery unique to New Zealand to meet the specific needs of regional industries, Joyce said in a statement.
The government would provide funding of up to 14.7 million NZ dollars (10.46 million U.S. dollars) over four years for the new institute with additional funding from industry, and it would operate as a private, independently governed organization.
It would support the development and growth of New Zealand's space economy by filling critical gaps in the collection and processing of New Zealand's satellite data, he said.
In September, Joyce opened New Zealand's first space launch site, the privately run Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1, on the Mahia Peninsula on the North Island's east coast.
The U.S.-owned Rocket Lab is a commercial space launch operator using technology developed in New Zealand.
The government tabled the Outer Space and High Altitude Activities Bill in Parliament the same month and it is intended to become law by mid-2017.
It would enable the development of a space industry in New Zealand, and enable regulators to manage risks and implement certain international obligations relating to space activities and space technology.
The Bill would also ensure the country's space industry met its international obligations, including the Technology Safeguards Agreement, recently signed with the United States.
Rocket Lab plans to begin space launches from New Zealand this year and is expected to start taking commercial payloads next year.