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First-of-its-kind space course for NZDF

The New Zealand Defence Force Space Program has launched a Joint Commercial Operations (JCO) course, the first of its kind to be conducted by a non-US team of instructors.

16 April, 2024

The four-week course at RNZAF Base Auckland hosts both Australian and New Zealand personnel, teaching them about the creation of Space Domain Awareness (SDA) products using commercial tools for sensing and data analytics.

It’s part of the Space Program’s brief to develop and maintain New Zealand's space capabilities, promoting the peaceful use of outer space and ensuring that New Zealand remains at the forefront of this technology.

Qualified personnel in Joint Commercial Operations contribute to three ‘cells’ of analysts who work in shifts to monitor military satellite activity. New Zealand and Australia currently make up the Pacific cell, handing over to the Meridian cell led by the UK and France, which hands over to the United States. There are 15 countries involved with more nations set to join.

Flight Lieutenant Dave Evans, Regional Coordinator for the JCO Pacific Cell, says they are excited to be offering the course in collaboration with Australia.

"This is a unique opportunity for students from both countries to learn from some of the best instructors in the field and to gain valuable hands-on experience in commercial SDA operations."

The course is open to any trade.

“We’re a mixture. We have people here who are loadmasters, we’ve got a Maritime Logistics Officer, and a few personnel from tech trades.”

6 Bosh Jang
2 Bosh Jang

There are commercial companies across the globe that use sensors, such as radars and telescopes, to track satellites from launch. “We take that data and use it to generate a final product for our users across the nations.”

A team of experienced NZDF Space Program instructors lead the course.

“They have been specially trained to deliver the curriculum developed in partnership with US experts. The New Zealand instructor team is supported by a US instructor, who provide additional insights in the latest developments in the JCO as well as overseeing the assessment and certifications element of the course.”

There will be another course in September, with the potential of Japanese personnel coming to train.

“It’s been quite a journey for us and I’ve been in this for two years. I’m proud of what we’ve achieved. Our instructors have even been to Poland and the UK, helping to train six Polish and Ukrainian analysts.”

Director Space Program Wing Commander Matt Tristram says they are committed to building strong partnerships with allies and partners.

“This is a significant milestone in demonstrating New Zealand’s ability to deliver interchangeable training with the United States."

"By working together, we ensure that our space capabilities remain at the cutting edge and that we are prepared to meet the challenges of the future."