CSST forms new partnerships with NASA, CSIRO and Airbus

Jean-Louis Bellan of Airbus and Steve Cotter, CSST CEO, meet at Airbus Defence and Space headquarters in Toulouse, France to discuss a partnership. Photo: CSST.

Among the flurry of activity by the Centre for Space Science Technology in the past couple of months, the Regional Research Institute has developed several significant partnerships. The first is with NASA on a mission to measure the temperature of plants and use that information to better understand how much water plants need and how they respond to stress. The second is with Australia’s CSIRO to jointly solve the complex challenges that arise from the demands and impacts of human activities on the environment, specifically in the South Pacific. Third, CSST also announced a deal with Airbus to provide access to Airbus’s products in New Zealand and the Pacific.


NASA’s ‘Ecostress’ mission is the CSST’s first international space mission partnership, and could eventually help increase agricultural yield, optimise forestry management and protect the world’s vulnerable ecosystems. CSST will act as a calibration and validation (cal/val) partner, with the deal bringing together researchers from University of Waikato, Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research, and the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) who will provide Ecostress with essential ground measurements from New Zealand.

The Ecostress instrument, which is roughly the size of a refrigerator, is installed on the International Space Station. It captures temperature measurements of the Earth’s surface and sends the data back down to Earth.

“The CSST and New Zealand researchers have established an important network of ecosystem measurements across a diverse landscape. This is important not only for understanding New Zealand’s rich ecology, but also for helping NASA to calibrate and validate similar measurements from space by Ecostress,” says JPL scientist and Ecostress science lead, Dr Joshua Fisher.

“We hope that this is the beginning of many science partnerships with key international space actors,” says Steve Cotter, CEO of CSST.

“It’s an exciting opportunity for us at CSST, but even more so for the whole of New Zealand, who will have free access to the data produced by Ecostress and the opportunity to use that data for their own scientific research or to develop applications based on learnings from the collected data.”


CSST’s other major partnership deal with Australia’s CSIRO will cover a number of research areas, and will likely include land use, farming techniques, improving crop yield, crop and livestock security, pest control, solutions for water management and disaster monitoring. CSIRO and CSST are already working on earth observation data analytics and processing platforms.

“Everything we do at CSIRO is focused on creating measurable economic, environment and social benefits that better our world, and Australia’s place in it,” says Dr Alex Held, Director of the CSIRO Centre for Earth Observation. “We see this as a natural partnership and we look forward to working with CSST to strengthen our collective scientific impact in the South Pacific region.”

In addition to shared methods, New Zealand has unique topology and climate which enables CSIRO to conduct proof of concept work and method validation with CSST scientists, which could lead towards product development that can be applied on a global scale.

CSST scientists are leading a number of unique projects such as the work of Dr Moritz Lehmann, CSST’s senior scientist. “Dr Lehmann’s work monitoring lake water colour at a country-wide level is of great interest to our team, and we look forward to collaborating with him to share sensors, tools, and knowledge to build a joint expertise across New Zealand and Australia,” says Dr Tim Malthus, Research Group Leader at CSIRO.


Earlier in October, CSST also announced a partnership agreement with Airbus Defence and Space, allowing CSST to become the primary provider of Airbus satellite data and products in New Zealand and the Pacific Islands. Products include high resolution, weather independent, near real-time satellite data, ideal for disaster monitoring and border security, as well as agriculture and forestry applications.

“In the past, New Zealand has lagged behind other nations in our application of Earth observation (EO) data, which has limited our ability to optimise the use of resource-limited inputs, manage risk, remain internationally competitive, respond to regulatory requirements, and minimise environmental impact,” says Steve.

“In order to address this issue, a key component of CSST’s original business case was to make EO data more available and affordable. We are starting to execute on that plan by negotiating strategic data partnership agreements which increase the availability and affordability of EO products and services in New Zealand and the wider Pacific region.”

Read more about the Ecostress Mission Partnership with NASA.

Read more about the CSIRO partnership.

Read more about the Airbus partnership.

Date posted: 6 December 2018

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