// As the 50th anniversary of the moon landing approaches, a Curtin University team has aspirations for its own space mission…
Researchers from Curtin University’s Space Science and Technology Centre (SSTC) have been given the opportunity to test a ‘mini’ satellite in orbit with the European Space Agency.
A team of 12 staff and student engineers at Curtin University have accomplished the rare feat of building the pocket-sized satellite, which they will launch on a re-supply rocket to the International Space Station to be released into orbit.
The project is part of a larger program titled ‘Binar’ after the Noongar word for ‘fireball’. The program aims to advance both WA industry and research, helping to build the State’s space engineering capabilities, and eventually fly a WA mission to the Moon.
The satellite technology, known as cubesat, will be fully tested on the ground before its launch next year. Curtin has partnered with the European Space Agency (ESA) to provide mission control capability for the project.
Members of the Binar engineering team have previously developed deep-space qualified hardware for landers on Mars and Titan, and managed software engineering for ESA missions.
SSTC Director and John Curtin Distinguished Professor Phil Bland from Curtin’s School of Earth and Planetary Sciences said the advantage of developing such a compact single-circuit board system was that it presented a more cost-effective alternative than those currently being produced by other manufacturers.
“The Curtin team has managed to put all the systems required to operate the satellite, including the power, computer, steering and communications, on a single eight-layer printed circuit board, which at 10cm by 10cm by 2.5cm is about the size of a rather small sandwich,” he said.
Curtin University Vice-Chancellor Professor Deborah Terry congratulated Professor Bland and his team on their achievement.
“The fact that a major international space exploration organisation such as the European Space Agency has agreed to partner with Curtin on this project is a tremendous endorsement of the high calibre of scientific expertise we have at our Space Science and Technology Centre,” she said.
“Having everything on a single circuit board means there is more room for what the satellite is carrying, which in this case will be a camera that will capture beautiful images of Australia taken from orbit.”Professor Phil Bland
SSTC is also preparing for a sub-orbital cubesat launch from the USA in the coming months, which will be a full test of Curtin’s first spacecraft, followed by a launch into low Earth orbit, from the International Space Station, next year.
The SSTC research team will spend months testing the cubesat in preparation for the sub-orbital launch, which will include the use of special vacuum chambers at Curtin University in order to simulate conditions in space.
Through cubesat projects, SSTC will be contributing to the SmartSat CRC, a consortium of industry and research organisations that aims to develop game-changing technologies to boost Australia’s space industry.
For more information about the Curtin University Space Science and Technology Centre, its missions, research and personnel click here.
MAIN IMAGE: SSTC Director and John Curtin Distinguished Professor Phil Bland at the announcement of the cubesat project. Supplied.