Miniexplorers readied for space

CubeSats launched from the NanoRacks CubeSat Deployer on the International Space Station in 2014. Image: NASA
14 June 2016

Australian researchers are developing three miniaturised satellites for space research, so called CubeSats, which will be launched into space later this year, as part of the European Union's QB50 launch of 50 satellites from the International Space Station.

Built from cubes around 10 centimetres per side, the CubeSats are undergoing rigorous tests at ANU's Advanced Instrumentation Technology Centre (AITC) at Mount Stromlo to ensure they are space ready.

CubeSats are emerging as a space industry standard design for low-cost space research. Originally conceived for student projects, more than 100 CubeSats have now been launched around the Earth and even around Mars.

The three Australian CubeSats will be used to monitor space weather and solar activity, which are important for vital systems such as GPS, financial systems and electricity grids.

One of the satellites will be equipped with radiation counters, a GPS receiver, a photonic spectrograph, and a new probe to measure the ionosphere.

A second CubeSat will carry new instruments to measure atmospheric water and carbon dioxide, which will be in demand from weather and climate scientists.

A third CubeSat will carry four separate experiments into orbit, including a specially designed GPS receiver and electronics with the ability to self-repair.

The Australian universities participating in the project include the ANU, the University of Sydney, UNSW, the University of Adelaide and the University of South Australia.

Story based on information provided by the Australian National University.