Monday, July 15, 2024

Space milestone for UC researchers

New Zealand has notched up a space first with the launch of University of Canterbury research to the International Space Station, Minister for Science, Innovation and Technology and Space, Judith Collins said today.

The hardware, developed by Dr Sarah Kessans (pictured), is designed to operate autonomously in orbit, allowing scientists on Earth to study the ways proteins crystallise in microgravity and to use their insights to develop more effective medicines and vaccines among other applications.

“Dr Kessans’ research is an inspiring example of the ways space technology can accelerate innovation on Earth,” Ms Collins says.

“It follows the recent launch of MethaneSAT, which will track and monitor global emissions from space, and demonstrates the huge potential of space to tackle some of the planet’s biggest challenges as we grow our globally competitive space sector.” 

Dr Kessans’ research was launched on a rocket from the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, USA today at 9.55am New Zealand time. It was accompanied by protein experiments from Canterbury, Otago, Victoria and Waikato universities.

The flight stems from an agreement signed between the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) and US commercial space company Axiom Space to help New Zealand researchers advance space science and technology. 

Dr Kessans’ project also recently received government funding for further development through the MBIE-administered Endeavour Fund. 

“This flight is a leading example of academia, government and private enterprise working together to advance science and develop a new niche within the already burgeoning space economy,” Ms Collins says.

“This Government is committed to developing our space sector, fostering innovation and supporting partnerships between the New Zealand research community and international space agencies and commercial collaborators.”

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