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New Zealand launches experimental military communications payload into space

Rocket Lab's Electron launch vehicle taking off from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia on 21 March. The rocket carried a US satellite, which includes an experimental communications payload developed by the NZDF. (Rocket Lab)

The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) has launched an experimental communications payload into orbit with the help of a research satellite developed by the US Navy's (USN's) Naval Postgraduate School (NPS).

This communications payload, named ‘Korimako', will “allow defence scientists to conduct space communications research”, the NZDF said on 28 March. Korimako is the first payload to be launched into space by the NZDF.

“A team of scientists from the NZDF's Defence Science & Technology (DST) will monitor and interact with Korimako via our Whangaparaoa Ground Station, north of Auckland,” the NZDF added.

The NZDF said initial tests conducted by the DST indicate that Korimako is “operating as expected”.

“[Korimako will facilitate DST to conduct research that] aims to build practical experience in space science and technology, test processes for New Zealand government space operations, and generate knowledge to enable future NZDF and wider government space development,” David Galligan, DST director, said.

The NZDF said it plans to launch a second experimental payload, named ‘Tui', from the US by the end of 2024. The NZDF had not responded to Janes request for more information about the two satellite payloads at the time of publication.

The NZDF said the NPS satellite hosting the Korimako payload is “about the size of a briefcase”. The satellite is at a distance of about 515 km from the ground and is orbiting the Earth every 90 minutes.

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