Tag Archives: cubesats

Fleet Space SMB CubeSat

Adelaide startup’s Australian first CubeSats launch

The launch lays the foundation for free global connectivity for the industrial Internet of Things (IoT). According to Fleet Space Technologies co-founder and CEO Flavia Tata Nardini, the shoebox-sized Proxima I and II CubeSats are the first to be launched by the Australian private sector. And they lifted off only weeks after Tata Nardini reached out across the Tasman to ask Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck about working together to “untangle the bottleneck of space”.

The Australian and New Zealand Space Agencies, along with regulatory authorities on both sides of the pond, worked with the two startups to clear regulatory and licensing hurdles in record time.

“The speed was unbelievable,” Tata Nardini told create.

And the launch wasn’t the only speedy part of the process. The two Proxima CubeSats were built in six weeks.

“Nanosatellites can be built in weeks, with a little bit of improvement each time,” Tata Nardini explained.

The bulk of the Proxima manufacture took place in San Francisco with Pumpkin Space Systems. The payload — a radio that controls the satellite’s communications — was built by Fleet Space Technologies in Adelaide.

Big rockets, little satellites

The Proxima CubeSats are the first of a constellation of 100 nanosatellites that Fleet Space Technologies plans to launch into Low Earth Orbit (LEO) by 2022. Fleet will have two more nanosatellites in orbit during the coming weeks, with Centauri I on board SpaceX’s recently delayed Falcon 9 SSO-A mission scheduled to launch from the Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. Centauri II will be hot on its heels, taking flight from an Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) PSLV C43 launch vehicle on 27 November.

Tata Nardini said Centauri I will be among 71 CubeSats aboard the Falcon 9, and the media has reported that up to 30 small satellites will be on the ISRO rocket. The SpaceX and ISRO vehicles are considerably heftier than Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket — which is designed specifically for small payloads such as nanosatellites.

Flavia Tata Nardini of Fleet and Australia's space industry
Fleet Space Technologies CEO Flavia Tata Nardini.

“These are big rockets — it’s fascinating to see them dedicating some of their launches to CubeSats,” Tata Nardini added.

Aussie startup Gilmour Space Technologies is also vying to claim its place in the small launch market, and has recently been named in the New York Times as one of only six companies worldwide with the engineering expertise and funding to give Rocket Lab some healthy competition. According to CEO Adam Gilmour, their hybrid-fuelled rocketsare on track for the first commercial launch from Australian soil by 2020.

The next industrial revolution

Fleet’s mission is to “power the next industrial revolution” in sectors such as farming, mining, shipping and logistics. According to Tata Nardini, Fleet’s satellites will “grab the data” from devices in industry.

Last year, Tata Nardini explained to the Engineers Australia Applied IoT Community that industrial clients who purchased sensors, gateways or terminals containing the Fleet Space Technologies communications chip would have free access to Fleet’s satellite constellation.

Even before their first launch, Fleet started generating revenue by connecting customers using existing satellites operated by companies such as Iridium and Inmarsat.

“We’re selling all over the world, proving our IoT approach and how fast we can go with customers,” Tata Nardini said, adding that her company’s CubeSats will provide extra features and redundancy to connect millions of devices.

The real test is in space

The Proxima and Centauri satellites will be monitored in the months after launch to make sure they are working correctly. The Proxima CubeSats have been granted permission to operate in sought-after L-band frequencies, which are used for GPS as they can pass through clouds and tree cover.

The Proxima CubeSats were the first to be launched by the Australian commercial sector. (Image: Fleet Space Technologies)
The Proxima CubeSats were the first to be launched by the Australian commercial sector. (Image: Fleet Space Technologies)

Fleet is tracking the CubeSats twice a day when they pass over Adelaide. The window is tight — 180 seconds for each transit — but Tata Nardini said that their ground station is capable of meeting the challenge.

Tata Nardini said that the Fleet team had learned a lot through the process of designing and building their four satellites.

“Everything is new at the beginning. The more you do it, the more you own it,” Tata Nardini said.

– Nadine Cranenburgh

This article was originally published on create digital.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.