Scientists from The University of New South Wales Canberra in Australia are taking the lead in the country's push to enter the space race. They launched the university's first miniature cube satellite into space last week and recently, opened up the nation's first space mission design facility.
The Buccaneer Cube Satellite
UNSW Canberra scientists had developed a miniature cube satellite called the Buccaneer alongside the Defence Science and Technology Group. They launched the Buccaneer on NASA's Delta 2 rocket from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
The satellite, which is as small as a shoe box, is expected to perform several operations over the next weeks and months. These will include testing and commissioning its systems before it will undergo other experiments early next year.
Minister for Defence Marise Payne said the satellite will help scientists understand more about the outer atmosphere, specifically the ionosphere, as it plays a major role in the nation's over-the-horizon radar.
"Being able to avoid collisions in space is essential if we are to safeguard the space-based technologies upon which society depends," said Professor Russell Boyce, Space director of UNSW Canberra. "Our cubesats will play an important role in gathering data for this research, among other outcomes such as demonstrating space-based capability ranging from remote sensing to ultra-secure quantum communications."
The Buccaneer is currently in stable orbit and scientists were able to establish communications.
In addition to this satellite, the university also has another contract with the Royal Australian Air Force to develop three more spacecraft and accomplish two space missions within the next two years. These satellites are expected to be used for maritime surveillance, with the first launch in early 2018.
Australia's First National Space Mission Design Facility
UNSW Canberra officially opened the nation's first space mission design facility on Nov. 27. The facility is jointly funded by the university and the ACT Government. The French Space Agency, Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales, is the one responsible for supporting and providing the software and training.
Boyce said the Australian National Concurrent Design Facility (ANCDF) complements the test facilities at the Australian National University. It also places Canberra in a very good position, where it is now able to carry out future space missions from beginning to end. He added that Australia now has a facility that will allow scientists and engineers to develop and work out the technical and economic viability of future space missions.