Meet the space experts behind the NZ Aerospace Challenge

A husband and wife team determined to make doing business in space easier for everyone have moved their operations to Christchurch to be closer to the action.

Eric Dahlstrom and Emeline Paat-Dahlstom run SpaceBase, alongside Co-Founder Rich Bodo, a company “democratising space systems and technology”. They’ve worked on billion-dollar NASA projects, including the International Space Station.

They are key players behind the NZ Aerospace Challenge 2019, brought together in partnership with Airbus and ChristchurchNZ.

The pair moved to Christchurch after a tour organised by ChristchurchNZ, to showcase the wide range of aerospace-related companies operating in the city.

Eric and Emeline are excited to see an aerospace hub gaining momentum here in Christchurch. The city is already home to many high-spec manufacturing and engineering businesses and, according to the pair, at last half a dozen data analysis start-ups have popped up, all who are doing world-leading aerospace work.

Emeline explains that the aerospace industry is much more than just rockets.  

“Most people think aerospace is about launchers, rockets and spacecraft – but that isn’t what aerospace is, that’s just the end product.

"It’s a whole industry and supply chain – businesses are needed to make the sensors for the aircraft, components need to be manufactured and the data analysed – it’s all considered aerospace,” said Emeline.

Christchurch can hold its own on the international aerospace scene according to Eric and Emeline, who are impressed by the level of talent in the city.

For example, Emeline explains that The University of Canterbury Rocketry Project has developed sophisticated guidance systems for rockets and many of the original engineers at Rocket Lab are also from Canterbury University.

The level of talent, combined with the type of technology available has meant a blossoming of the aerospace industry.

“Technology today is off the shelf, we don’t need to be in the US or a government agency to avail ourselves of the technology,” said Emeline.

Eric explains just how accessible some of this technology now is.

“An accelerometer on a spacecraft used to be 30cm across and weigh 20 kilograms and cost $30,000. Now it’s a $1 chip.

“Your phone is the power of at least 60 Cray 2 super computers, that’s all the computers the Pentagon had during the Cold War, your phone is more powerful than everything they had.”

Eric explains that the New Zealand Aerospace Challenge 2019 is one way to stir up and identify further  talent not only here in Christchurch but across New Zealand. With a partner like Airbus coming onboard it demonstrates the international audience is keen to tap into what New Zealand is doing.  

“The Challenge has 18 teams from across the country in an incubation programme, where they are provided with masterclasses, mentorship and support from industry experts.

“We’ve been impressed by the standard of talent, but I’m sure we’ve only scratched the surface of what’s out there,” said Eric.