The University of New South Wales (Canberra) launched its first miniature satellite into orbit from the US, achieving an important milestone for Australia’s space sector.
The Buccaneer cube satellite, developed by Defence Science Technology Group and UNSW, was launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on a Delta-II rocket, and communications have now been established.
Minister for Defence Marise Payne congratulated the team on the successful launch.
"Small, low-cost satellites like Buccaneer provide a unique opportunity to support Australian Defence Force capabilities and to rejuvenate Australian space research," Minister Payne said.
"Buccaneer is designed to improve understanding of the outer atmosphere, in particular the ionosphere, which plays a key role in Australia’s world-leading over-the-horizon radar capability."
Buccaneer’s first mission is to test key technologies in preparation for the main mission in a few years when it will perform calibration activities for the Jindalee Operational Radar Network.
Over the next few weeks and months the spacecraft will undergo operations to check and commission its systems before undertaking its risk mitigation activities and experiments in early 2018.
UNSW Canberra Space director Professor Russell Boyce said, "Being able to avoid collisions in space is essential if we are to safeguard the space-based technologies upon which society depends. 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."
Buccaneer is one of five funded spacecraft, and a further three in early development, at UNSW Canberra Space, a flagship program established with a $10 million internal investment.
"With a team of over 40 space engineers, scientists and PhD students, we have the in-house ability and capacity to conceive, develop and fly innovative space missions with our own hands, supported by world-class space research, rather than relying on others," said Professor Boyce.
"It’s about building a sustainable domestic space capability with affordable methods of delivery."
UNSW Canberra rector Professor Michael Frater added, "What we’re seeing now, throughout government, is an understanding that it is critically important for Australia to operate in space, both from a security point of view and economically.
"We want Australia to have a really vibrant space industry. It makes sense for Australia to play niche roles and benefit from the innovation, spin offs and export dollars that come with it."
Minister Payne said the 2016 Defence White Paper highlights space research and space-based systems as an important part of Australia’s Defence capability and national security.
"The government will invest significantly in space-related projects for Defence over the next two decades and it has made a commitment to establish a national space agency to drive Australia’s involvement in space," Minister Payne said.
The successful launch of the Buccaneer cube satellite coincides with the 50th anniversary of Australia’s first satellite, the Weapons Research Establishment Satellite (WRESAT).