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Australian satellites on the world stage

Three CubeSats are being tested at ANU’s Mount Stromlo space testing facility, before their launch as part of the European Union’s QB50 launch of 50 satellites.

The CubeSats, satellites built from cubes approximately 10cm per side, have been developed by researchers at ANU, University of Sydney, UNSW, University of Adelaide and University of South Australia. Prior to their launch from the International Space Station later this year, they must undergo rigorous tests in the ANU space simulator at the Advanced Instrumentation Technology Centre (AITC) at Mount Stromlo.

According to collaboration leader Professor Cairns of University of Sydney, the first three Australian CubeSats in space will be looking at space weather and solar activity, which are important for systems such as GPS, financial systems and electricity grids.

The CubeSat, developed in collaboration with UK and Norwegian scientists, carries radiation counters, a GPS receiver, a photonic spectrograph and a new probe to measure the ionosphere. A second satellite (developed by University of Adelaide and University of South Australia) will carry new instruments to measure atmospheric water and carbon dioxide, and a third satellite (developed by UNSW) will carry four separate experiments into orbit, including a GPS receiver and electronics with the ability to self-repair.

“This is a big opportunity to develop innovative technology, [and] has really amped up our ability to compete at an international level,” said Dr Matthew Tetlow from University of Adelaide.

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