Tag Archives: UNSW-ECO

lost satellite

Lost satellite?

Featured image above: the Nanoracks CubeSat launcher on the Japanese arm of the International Space Station

The first Australian satellite in 15 years, UNSW-EC0, was successfully deployed from the International Space Station, but the UNSW engineers who built it were unable to establish contact when it made its first pass above Sydney.

UNSW-EC0 was ejected from the station at 3:25pm AEST on 26 May, and made its first pass over Sydney at 4:21pm. Engineers at UNSW’s Australian Centre for Space Engineering Research (ACSER) were unable to pick up the signal it is meant to send to confirm the cubesat is operating as designed.

“We’re not overly concerned yet,” said Elias Aboutanios, project leader of the UNSW-EC0 cubesat and deputy director of ACSER. “We’re troubleshooting a number of scenarios for why we didn’t detect it, from checking our ground equipment to exploring the possibility that the batteries might have discharged. But at the moment, we just don’t know.”

“If it is the batteries, the satellite has solar panels and will be able to recharge,” said Joon Wayn Cheong, a research associate at UNSW’s School of Electrical Engineering and Telecommunications and technical lead of the UNSW-EC0 cubesat. “But because it was deployed in the Earth’s shadow, we have to wait for it to make a few orbits before it has recharged, especially if it’s tumbling. So it could be 24 to 48 hours.”

The International Space Station, or ISS, will make four more passes over Sydney on Friday 25 May, and the UNSW team of 15 researchers and students will again try to establish contact, and run a series of tests for scenarios to explain the lack of a signal.

UNSW-EC0 is one of three Australian research satellites – two of them built at the UNSW – that blasted off just after on April 19 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Its mission is to explore the little-understood region above Earth known as the thermosphere, study its atomic composition as well as test new robust computer chips and GPS devices developed at UNSW.

In addition, its chassis is made entirely from 3D-printed thermoplastic, itself an experiment to test the reliability of using  3D-printing to manufacture satellites, making them cheaper and much more customisable.

The cubesat is part of an international QB50 mission, a swarm of 36 small satellites – known as ‘cubesats’ and weighing about 1.3 kg each – that will carry out the most extensive measurements ever undertaken of the thermosphere, a region between 200 and 380 km above Earth. This poorly-studied and usually inaccessible zone of the atmosphere helps shield Earth from cosmic rays and solar radiation, and is vital for communications and weather formation.

“These are the first Australian satellites to go into space in 15 years,” said Andrew Dempster, director of ACSER at UNSW, and a member of the advisory council of the Space Industry Association of Australia. “There have only been two before: Fedsat in 2002 and WRESAT in 1967. So we’ve got more hardware in space today than Australia’s had in its history.”

UNSW-EC0 was deployed from the ISS from a Nanoracks launcher, a ‘cannon’ that eject cubesats at a height of 380 km (the same as the ISS), allowing them to drift down to a lower orbit where they can begin their measurements.

“This zone of the atmosphere is poorly understood and really hard to measure,” said Aboutanios. “It’s where much of the ultraviolet and X-ray radiation from the Sun collides with Earth, influencing our weather, generating auroras and creating hazards that can affect power grids and communications.

“So it’s really important we learn a lot more about it. The QB50 cubesats will probably tell us more than we’ve ever known about the thermosphere,” he added.

QB50 is a collaboration of more than 50 universities and research institutes in 23 countries, headed by the von Karman Institute (VKI) in Belgium. “This is the very first international real-time coordinated study of the thermosphere phenomena,” said VKI’s Davide Masutti. “The data generated by the constellation will be unique in many ways and they will be used for many years by scientists around the world.”

This article was first published by UNSW Engineering. Read the original article here.

cubesats

Lift-off for Australian CubeSats!

Featured image above: Artist’s impression of the UNSW-EcO cubesat in space. Credit: UNSW Australia

Three Australian research satellites – the first in 15 years – blasted off on Wednesday 19th April from Cape Canaveral and arrived at the International Space Station on Saturday. They will soon be deployed in orbit to explore the little-understood region above Earth known as the thermosphere.

The trio, two of them built at UNSW Australia, are part of an international QB50 mission, a swarm of 36 small satellites – known as ‘cubesats’ and weighing about 1.3 kg each – which will carry out the most extensive measurements ever undertaken of the thermosphere, a region between 200 and 380 km above Earth.

This poorly-studied and usually inaccessible zone of the atmosphere helps shield Earth from cosmic rays and solar radiation, and is vital for communications and weather formation.

cubesats
Three Australian research satellites blast off from Cape Canaveral. Credit: UNSW

Twenty-eight of the QB50 satellites, including the three Australian cubesats, were aboard the Atlas 5 rocket when it launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

The three Australian satellites are UNSW-EC0, built by UNSW’s Australian Centre for Space Engineering Research (ACSER) which will study the atomic composition of the thermosphere along with new robust computer chips and GPS; INSPIRE-2, a project led by the University of Sydney and involving UNSW and the Australian National University which was also partly built at ACSER; and SuSAT, a joint project between by the University of Adelaide and the University of South Australia.

cubesats
The INSPIRE-2 cubesat

“These are the first Australian satellites to go into space in 15 years,” says Andrew Dempster, director of the Australian Centre for Space Engineering Research (ACSER) at UNSW, and a member of the advisory council of the Space Industry Association of Australia.

“There have only been two before: Fedsat in 2002 and WRESAT in 1967. So we’ve got more hardware in space today than Australia’s had in its history.”

Sometime in May, the first 20 cubesats – including INSPIRE-2 and SUSat – will be deployed from the International Space Station, or ISS, via a Nanoracks launcher, a ‘cannon’ that will eject them at a height of 380 km (the same as the ISS), and they will drift down to a lower orbit where they can begin their measurements. UNSW-EC0 will be deployed with the remaining seven other cubesats around June 17.

cubesats
The Japanese robotic arm of the ISS hosts the Nanoracks CubeSat launcher. Credit: UNSW

Also aboard the Atlas 5 rocket is Biarri Point, a cubesat for defence applications testing carrying new GPS technology developed by UNSW’s ACSER and Australia’s Defence Science and Technology Group. It is part of a four-nation defence project between Australia, the US, the UK and Canada that will see the launch of another two cubesats over the next year. The remaining eight QB50 cubesat will be launched separately into orbit by an Indian rocket later in May.

“This zone of the atmosphere is poorly understood and really hard to measure,” says Elias Aboutanios, project leader of the UNSW-EC0 cubesat and deputy director of ACSER.

“It’s where much of the ultraviolet and X-ray radiation from the Sun collides with Earth, influencing our weather, generating auroras and creating hazards that can affect power grids and communications.

“So it’s really important we learn a lot more about it. The QB50 cubesats will probably tell us more than we’ve ever known about the thermosphere,” he says.

cubesats
Project leader of the UNSW-EC0 cubesat and deputy director of ACSER, Elias Aboutanios. Credit: UNSW

QB50 is a collaboration of more than 50 universities and research institutes in 23 countries, headed by the von Karman Institute (VKI) in Belgium. “This is the very first international real-time coordinated study of the thermosphere phenomena,” says VKI’s Davide Masutti.

“The data generated by the constellation will be unique in many ways and they will be used for many years by scientists around the world.”

Both the QB50 and Biarri projects show what Australia can do in the new age of cubesats, dubbed ‘Space 2.0’, that allows companies and researchers to develop new space applications and devices and launch them at much lower cost.

“It proves that, even with modest resources, Australians can be players in space industry and research,” says Joon Wayn Cheong, a research associate at UNSW’s School of Electrical Engineering and Telecommunications and technical lead of the UNSW-EC0 cubesat.

“UNSW-EC0 and INSPIRE-2 prove we can devise and build space-ready hardware which can tolerate the punishing strain of blast-off and the harsh conditions of space.”

cubesats
The team that built the UNSW-Ec0 and INSPIRE-2 satellites. Credit: Herzliya Science Centre

Mark Hoffman, UNSW’s Dean of Engineering, agrees. “We used to think of space as a place only big-budget space agencies could play in. The advent of cheap and powerful cubesats has made space accessible as never before, and that’s going to be great for industry and research applications. I’m delighted to see UNSW playing a leading role in this emerging sector in Australia. “

Each QB50 cubesat carries instruments with its own engineering and scientific goals. UNSW-EC0, for example, has three other experiments: a robust computer chip designed to avoid crashing in the harsh radiation of space, as some satellites and space probes are forced to do when hit by cosmic rays; a space-borne GPS to enable satellites to cluster together in swarms; and test a super-reliable computer microkernel in the harsh radiation of space.

In addition, UNSW-EC0’s chassis is made entirely from 3D-printed thermoplastic, itself an experiment to test the reliability of using  3D-printing to manufacture satellites, making them cheaper and much more customisable.

This information was first shared by UNSW Australia on 19 April 2017. Read the original article here, or watch the video below.