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Our projects cover a broad range of disciplines and issues at the intersection of aerospace and sustainability. 

We are open to collaborations, joint initiatives and student projects.

Please contact us for more information.

Towards a net-zero carbon and sustainable space sector for Aotearoa New Zealand: stakeholder engagement

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Our research team is conducting a series of personal engagements, including interviews, workshops, and surveys, to understand the risks and opportunities of pursuing a more sustainable aerospace sector.

Experts are being sought from universities, aerospace industries, government agencies, astronomy, and sustainability initiatives to provide various perspectives and challenge our understanding of the current state.


Project team: Priyanka Dhopade, Adam Morris, Carolle Varughese, Lena Henry, Sarah Bickerton, Cody Mankelow, Stevie-Katavich Barton, Nicholas Rattenbury

Indigenous knowledges: Māori worldviews 


In Aotearoa, the ongoing revitalisation of Māori astronomical traditions symbolises the necessary bicultural constitutional foundations, as set out in Te Tiriti o Waitangi, for a rapidly emerging aerospace sector.

This foundation means having authentic partnerships with tangata whenua, the Indigenous peoples. It means ensuring Māori voices are welcomed and respected at the decision-making stage and on what we choose to do in space.

We work with our wider Māori colleagues and organisations to identify opportunities for Māori-led projects on sustainability and aerospace.

Project team: Lena Henry, Te Kahuratai Moko-Painting, Priyanka Dhopade, Sarah Bickerton, Cody Mankelow, Catherine Qualtrough, Adam Morris, Carolle Varughese

Pictured: Lena Henry and Julian Phillips (Tāwhaki)

Credit: Dy Jolly (Tāwhaki)

Corporate Social Responsibility in Aerospace 


Corporate social responsibility (CSR) examines  a company’s social responsibilities in several areas: Sustainability, Employee Health and Safety, Community Outreach, Human Rights, Diversity, and Ethics. CSR can be a valuable tool for companies as it is shown to improve profits, motivate employees, and aid in a public relations crisis.

This project will produce a new framework for aviation companies to implement, track and measure their CSR using quantitative and qualitative methods. Relevant insights will be extended to aerospace businesses (advanced aviation and space).

Project team: Natalie Porter, Kim Dirks, Priyanka Dhopade

Artificial Intelligence in Education

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This ongoing project with Tohatoha Aotearoa Commons focuses on educating the public on the impact of artificial intelligence (AI). The team applies a critical lens to understanding the impact of AI in primary and secondary schools, and equipping educators and younger people to engage with it. 

Insights are applied to aerospace-enabled data, such as public awareness and social impact of emerging technologies. 

Project team: Sarah Bickerton, Tohatoha, Education Hub

Mapping international space missions to UN Sustainable Development Goals

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This student project involves mapping the projected outcomes of key missions, for e.g. MethaneSAT, onto the UN’s 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs). This mapping exercise will provide insight on how space-enabled data supports sustainable development on Earth, and make recommendations for an 18th SDG for the space environment.

Project supervisor: Priyanka Dhopade

Lifecycle assessments and eco-design for space missions


This team is developing a novel method for lifecycle inventory data collection during the R&D phase of a commercial satellite payload mission (Te Pūnaha Ātea). The gathering of foreground data is identified as a crucial part in this phase, e.g. component design, testing and personnel hours.  This project will enable space organisations to collect more robust data and contribute to more effective eco-design of space missions.

Project team: Cody Mankelow, Leo Awata-Morley, Ben Taylor, Priyanka Dhopade

Social impact quantification of space-enabled data

Earth View at Night

The international earth observation industry is worth $58 billion, and the derived data plays a crucial role towards positive social outcomes.

This project uses statistical methods to capture complex relationships in data while incorporating uncertainty in predictions. The novel method analyses predictors such as different types of satellite data and socio-economic-environmental variables, and outcomes of interest such as specific policy decisions.

Project team: Stevie Katavich-Barton, Priyanka Dhopade, Peter Edwards, Tom Dowling, Adam Morris, Cody Mankelow, Imogen Napper, Sarah Bickerton

National emissions profile of New Zealand's helicopter fleet

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In New Zealand, civil helicopters make up approximately 30% of aircraft registries and 15% of annual flight hours. A comprehensive understanding of how these emissions are spread both geographically and economically is required to plan for the most effective introduction of green technologies (e.g. sustainable aviation fuels and hybrid electric propulsion). 

This project provides an emissions profile of civil helicopters on a national scale, segregated by industry sector, helicopter model and geographical regions within New Zealand, using CAA historical flight data from the past two decades.

Project team: Holly Ansley, Priyanka Dhopade

Mapping space economy growth to global trends 

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This project maps trends from various published sources on the global space economy, climate risk scenarios and futures reports. The ongoing mapping provides an evidence base for shifts in geopolitical influences, emerging commercial services, and opportunities for circular and regenerative economics in the commercial space industry. 

Project team: Ronda Geise, Adam Morris, Priyanka Dhopade

Enabling reusable launcher components with accurate measurements of re-entry thermal loads


Partially reusable commercial launch systems, such as those currently deployed by SpaceX and Rocket Lab, have shown the potential to reduce costs and environmental impact of space launches. One of the ongoing challenges is to safely recover suborbital rocket stages after re-entry to the Earth’s atmosphere at hypersonic speeds. Aerodynamic heating of the stage can cause surface temperatures to exceed 2000°C. Understanding this thermal environment is critical to designing better thermal protection systems and recovery architecture.

This student project explores numerical and experimental temperature measurement techniques to accurately predict & measure hypersonic re-entry temperatures. Some of the experimental techniques include thermocouple sensors, permanent-change thermal paints and infrared thermography. 

Project supervisor: Priyanka Dhopade

Image attribution: DLR, CC-BY 3.0

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