By Anthony Young, CapitalNZ News
Te Herenga Waka – Victoria University of Wellington will become the first university in New Zealand to offer Space Science as an undergraduate major, fuelled by increasing interest in a growing national space industry. A focus on ‘near space’ makes it unique internationally.
Dr Tulasi Parashar, one of the lecturers that has spearheaded the Space Science major at the School of Chemical and Physical Sciences, says NZ’s space industry has been literally taking off with companies like Rocket Lab, KiwiStar Optics and Leo Lab now well established. It is estimated that the industry employs about 5,000 people and another 7,000 in support services. In 2016, the Government set up the New Zealand Space Agency. Dr Parashar says they consulted with NZSA, other Government agencies and industry players to understand the need and what should be included in the curriculum.
KiwiStar Optic’s Chief Technology Office, Dr Andrew Rakich believes there are exciting career opportunities and life experiences to those considering the sector. He told CapitalNZ News, “It’s a privilege to work in the [Space and optics] field. A young person that has the aptitude and interest can open up all sorts of directions for their career. While NZ hasn’t got a large technical base, if you develop your technical skills you will be in demand around the world.”
Dr Rakich who himself has worked in four countries before returning to Wellington said that 95% of KiwiStar Optics income is for international markets. They have helped build some of the world’s biggest telescopes from its Lower Hutt premises.