NZ Satellite Closer After Approval Given to Use Dedicated Orbital Slot
By BATHGATE, Adrian
A commercial New Zealand satellite is expected to be in orbit in about five years, after New Zealand Satellite Opportunities (NZLSAT) received government approval to use the country's dedicated orbital slot.
NZLSAT estimates it will cost about $US165 million ($NZ240m) to get the satellite built and into space, and director Paul Hannah- Jones is confident there is enough interest to make it worthwhile.
He expects the satellite to be in service by January 2010. Possible uses include broadcasting, communications and defence.
Hannah-Jones said the exact make-up and services provided by the satellite would depend on deals struck with New Zealand users. Potential customers included existing broadcasters and communications companies, while the Defence Force had said a satellite could be of extreme interest.
"Depending on the nature and range of the functions performed by the satellite, that will dictate the size and performance characteristics," Hannah-Jones said.
Although discussions with potential users were under way, he declined to comment on who might be interested and for what purposes.
"The next stage of the programme is firming up customer commitment. We've got a pretty good idea of that right now but it needs to be solidified."
The project would be funded by private investment, which could be a combination of New Zealand and offshore investors.
However NZLSAT may not be the first New Zealand satellite in space. A small consortium of amateur radio enthusiasts, led by Massey University, hopes to put a satellite in space in 2007. Kiwisat want to launch a basketball-sized satellite to relay voice and data signals, costing up to $400,000.
NZLSAT was formed 18 months ago with the aim of getting a commercial Kiwi satellite into space. Under international space agreements, New Zealand has a dedicated orbital position at 158 degrees east of the meridian.
Hannah-Jones said it would now formally establish an Auckland office and appoint a general manager early next year. It would also start looking at tender options for commissioning the building of the satellite which will have a lifespan of about 15 years. Hannah- Jones said NZLSAT would want to see another launched after that time, giving New Zealand a permanent space presence.
"One of the main aims of this project is to improve New Zealand's information communications technology (ICT) infrastructure, to give it capacity for services that aren't there right now."
Sky TV opposed the NZLSAT application, saying it might interfere with its broadcasts from a nearby Optus satellite.
Source: Press, The; Christchurch, New Zealand
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