Science Payloads Operations Centre

In partnership with Air New Zealand’s world-class engineers, researchers across Aotearoa, New Zealand are working with NASA on a mission that will advance global understanding of the impacts of climate change.

Rogowai logo

The mission, named “Rongowai” (sensing water), will see a Q300 aircraft fitted with a next-generation satellite receiver. Using GPS signals reflected from the Earth’s surface, the Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) receiver unit will act as a scientific “black box” during flights, gathering data to better predict severe storms, as well as enabling new climate change research in New ZealandNASA will use the data that is collected and processed in New Zealand for scientific research into global water cycle processes and their interactions with climate including effects like flooding, droughts and coastal erosion.

This project has been made possible through an agreement between NASA and the New Zealand Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE).

How does it work?

Rongowai will test a follow-on sensor for NASA’s “CyGNSS” mission, comprised of 8 Low Earth Orbiting spacecraft that receive both direct and reflected signals from GPS satellites. During each flight, the sensors on-board the Air New Zealand Q300 aircraft will record direct and reflected signals from up to 20 GNSS satellites simultaneously.


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Science enablement

GPS signals, bounced off the ocean, will measure wind speeds and help scientists better predict cyclones and hurricanes. Over land, the technology can determine soil moisture levels, so it can also monitor climate change indicators such as drought, flooding and coastline erosion.


Meet the Team

Researchers from the University of Michigan, Ohio State University, the University of Auckland, University of Canterbury and the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research are working together on the groundbreaking Rongowai mission, with data to be hosted at University of Auckland’s Science Payload Operations Centre (SPOC).


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CYGNSS iamge


Rongowai will fly aboard Air New Zealand’s Q300 aircraft beginning in September 2022.  Learn more about the data that will be collected and the link between Rongowai and NASA’s CYGNSS (Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System) mission.



SPOC Showcase Event

On the 11th August 2021, the first payload of the Science Payload Operation Centre (SPOC) was officially named Rongowai – composed of the Te reo Māori words Rongo (to sense) and Wai (water) – and showcased for over 60 VIPs involved in New Zealand’s space, aviation, environmental, and defence sectors.

Opensky Network presentation

As a first of a kind initiative, Air New Zealand has committed to providing engineering, certification and installation and will  fly NASA’s newly developed  GNSS-R (Global Navigation Satellite...

Meet the Team: Chris Ruf

Chris Ruf is a Professor of Climate and Space Science, Electrical Engineering, and Applied Physics at the University of Michigan, USA, and Principal Investigator of the NASA Cyclone Global...

Meet the Team: Matt Wilson

Matt Wilson is a Professor in Spatial Information in the Geospatial Research Institute Toi Hangarau,University of Canterbury, in Christchurch, New Zealand. His main areas of research expertise are...

Air NZ teams up with NASA to collect environmental data on domestic flights