NZ Space Challenge 2018

The national New Zealand Space Challenge is to develop and apply space data and space technologies to current problems. With Antarctica as an analogue of future space exploration, the 2018 Challenge seeks innovative solutions to enable safer, more efficient navigation across Antarctica


The 2018 NZ Space Challenge seeks innovative technological solutions to solve today’s problems in Antarctica, which can be translated for space missions or other extreme conditions in the future.

It is our goal to use these analogue Antarctic challenges to find new and innovative technologies to solve inherent problems today on the ice, which can be used for space missions in the future.

The Challenge is open to anyone residing in New Zealand, or New Zealand citizens living abroad.

The Challenge commences on 1 February 2018 with regional judging in early May 2018 and final judging and the overall winner announced on 24 May 2018.

For more information on the Challenge, see FAQs or email













What is the 2018 NZ Space Challenge?


Many of the most challenging aspects of conducting operations in Antarctica involve safely traversing distances on the land and ice – mapping safe routes through hazards such as crevasses.

The current state-of-the-art technology imposes limits to current operations while scientific objectives seek to expand access to remote sites across Antarctica and extend operations beyond the current Austral summer.

The NZ Antarctica Program is currently conducting a 1000+ km traverse from Scott Base across the Ross Ice Shelf to establish routes to new scientific stations. Current techniques make use of satellite remote sensing, including space-based synthetic aperture radar (SAR) to identify crevasses on land.

Current processing of the satellite data includes manual steps to supervise the identification of hazards. On the surface, ground penetrating radars are employed on booms attached to vehicles or on small rovers.

There are opportunities to apply innovative and new technologies, sensors, and data processing algorithms to improve the quality, efficiency and timeliness of information.


Specifically, the 2018 New Zealand Space Challenge is to:

Use new or current technologies or data, in space or on the ice to, (a) find the best methods to identify hazards and map a path across the ice, and/or (b) design or prototype new sensor systems and algorithms to help vehicles navigate across the ice in Antarctica.


Why enter the NZ Space Challenge?


Space has been known as the final frontier for some time.  With the rise of the technological revolution and innovation it is now possible for this extreme environment to become more accessible and we will see the democratisation of space.

By entering the NZ Space Challenge, you will have the opportunity to be at the forefront of the technological wave which is upon us.

New Zealanders are pioneers and our expertise as a gateway for Antarctic research and operations gives us the platform for research into other extreme environments. 

Interested to get in as a first adopter/inventor into the space race? This is your chance.

The overall winner of the inaugural New Zealand Space Challenge will receive:

  • The honour of being New Zealand’s first Space Challenge Award recipient
  • A cash prize of $40,000
  • Support to commercialise your idea or business start-up establishment support.
  • A minimum of six months free access to a co-working space to further develop and maximise your ideas for commercial potential
  • Free entry to the Extreme Environment: from Antarctic to Space conference in Christchurch, 24 May 2018

The five regional finalists will receive:

  • Access to co-working space (at least three months) and start-up advisory support
  • Free entry to the Extreme Environment: from Antarctic to Space conference in Christchurch, 24 May 2018
  • All applicants will be invited to join the SpaceBase collaborative online platform

Judging Criteria

All applications will be judged according to the following criteria:

  • Use of Space Technology - Leverage space technology to solve problem
  • Technical Feasibility and Rigor - Based on scientific principles and methods
  • Innovative Solution - Novel and new idea
  • Market Viability - Clear business case or plan for execution
  • Scalability - Plan for mass adoption
  • Ease of Implementation - Easily adoptable and implementable  
  • Environmental Impact – Least harm to the environment

Applicants will receive additional points for the following:

  • Evidence of impact within two years
  • Collaboration with multiple stakeholders
  • Creative integration (from other technologies, etc.)
  • Team composition for execution
  • For more detailed information please review the application form

Preference will be given to applicants that demonstrate proof of concept in the form of a prototype to validate their ideas or solutions. 


To help you with your thinking – the use of space data

One aspect of this challenge is to identify hazards in Antarctica using remote sensing data - such as polar orbiting spacecraft. Can you see crevasse fields in images from space in visible or near-infrared? Space-based synthetic aperture radar (SAR) can yield information through clouds or during the polar night. What SAR data sets are available - now, or in the future? Can you locate the hazards precisely on a moving ice flow? Can the identification of optimal paths be automated?

Challenge teams should investigate what techniques are currently used, how the data sets are processed, and imagine how these systems might be improved - all in support of navigation in Antarctica. Many of these same techniques will apply for navigating on the Moon, Mars, or other worlds.


And the use of sensor systems

On land and on the ice, human and robotic vehicles are driven using a wide variety of sensors. Some vehicles are equipped with booms with ground penetrating radars to detect crevasses hidden under the ice. What other sensors (such as infrared, lidar, ultrasonic, radio frequency, etc.) might be useful? Can small rovers or drones scout ahead? Can robotic vehicles operate in the harsh conditions (low temperatures, winds, ice, blowing snow, poor visibility, low humidity, etc.)? Can vehicles operate outside of the short austral summer? What battery or power technologies are available?

Challenge teams should investigate what systems are currently used and where new sensors or techniques might support future operations. Experience exploring the harshest regions of Earth will prepare us for the exploration of other worlds.

Applications are now open:


The New Zealand Space Agency is pleased to support the New Zealand Space Challenge 2018.

"The global space economy is rapidly evolving and we all rely on data coming from satellites to make our world a better and safer place. This data presents tangible opportunities for innovative businesses to develop new products and services, and also for researchers to expand our understanding of the planet that we live on.

The New Zealand Space Agency was created to enable the growth of a safe, responsible and secure space industry in New Zealand, and we want everyone to take advantage of the opportunities that our participation in the global space economy has to offer. “

The Partners

ChristchurchNZ and SpaceBase are collaborating to run New Zealand’s first Space Challenge.

SpaceBase is a social enterprise founded by three Edmund Hillary Fellows with deep knowledge and connections into the global space industry – Emeline Paat-Dahlstrom, Eric Dahlstrom and Rich Bodo.  SpaceBase is creating an online collaborative platform to support entrepreneurs in emerging space industries – providing access to training, networking, technical services, and investment opportunities.

ChristchurchNZ is Christchurch’s promotion and development agency.


Why Space, Why Antarctica?

Exponential technologies have started the democratization of space and has made possible accelerated advancement and use of technologies to plan for and support visionary missions to the Moon, Mars and beyond.

Today, New Zealand has stepped up to the plate for becoming an emerging nation focused on creating a space ecosystem and industry that can support the big, grand visions on space.

New Zealand as a gateway for Antarctic research and operations, and in particular Christchurch, has long been a pioneer on research and logistics access in extreme environments.  Our expertise in the Antarctic regions parallel the necessary specialization needed for future long duration and interplanetary space missions.

It is our goal to use these analogue Antarctic challenges to find new and innovative technologies to solve inherent problems today on the ice which can be used for space missions in the future.