Zenno Astronautics: New Zealand man's invention hitches ride to space on Elon Musk SpaceX rocket

An Auckland man's invention has hitched a ride to space on a rocket launched by billionaire Elon Musk's company SpaceX. 

SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket, 'Korea 425', blasted off from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California on Friday, carrying six payloads, including a satellite embedded with technology invented by a New Zealander. 

Max Arshavsky, 32, invented a way of repositioning satellites in space without using any fuel, and his technology has now successfully made it into orbit where the first tests will be carried out.  

"Having the idea was very exciting," Arshavsky told Newshub. "But going from idea to implementation to being in orbit was very hard." 

Arshavsky was born in Siberia and moved to New Zealand when he was 18. After studying engineering at the University of Auckland, he established his Auckland-based space-tech company Zenno Astronautics.  

Last year the company announced seed funding of $10.5 million, from a mix of New Zealand, American and European backers, to help pay for its first venture beyond Earth's atmosphere.  

The technology, called the Z01 SuperTorquer, enables satellites in space to be moved around and repositioned without using any fuel. Instead, what's used is called superconducting electromagnets. 

The technology attaches to a satellite. Once deployed, energy from the sun powers controlled supermagnetic forces, so the satellite can be repositioned in space, with no fossil fuel top-up required. 

"One of the greatest bottlenecks when it comes to space exploration is that we use fuel that comes from Earth for agility in space," Arshavsky told Newshub.  

"We looked at how we could resolve this problem and realised that using a magnetic force is the best way to do it." 

The new Space Minister Judith Collins visited the Zenno Astronautics headquarters in Auckland's Parnell.  

She described the launch as "a fantastic win for the team at Zenno Astronautics, for our country - and for space".  

Erica Lloyd, Zenno Astronautics' chief revenue officer, told Newshub the company has been overwhelmed with interest in the technology. 

"What you've seen launched just now is a paradigm shift. It's bringing something altogether new to the market - a new way to move spacecraft." 

The company is now part of the more than $500 billion space economy. 

"New Zealand and Zenno, we have incredible engineers," Lloyd said, "who thrive on solving hard problems." 

The company says fully magnetic satellite agility is just the start. It's also working on technology that would create radiation shielding of hardware in space.