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Buccaneer cube satellite a milestone for Australian industry

buccaneer cube sat

The launch of the UNSW Canberra Buccaneer cube satellite is a significant milestone in Australia’s next-generation space capability. The cubesat itself was conceptualised, designed, built and tested in Canberra, and is the first of five to be launched by UNSW’s Canberra space director Professor Russell Boyce and his team in partnership with DST Group.

It was launched into space from Vanderberg Air Force Base in California, and over the next few weeks will undergo operations to check and commission its systems before undertaking experiments in 2018. 


This milestone is a taste of what is to come for space technologies as companies, universities, agencies and departments continue to collaborate to build capability and experience across both the civilian and defence space sector.

News of this launch was the first of a number of Australian space sector events. UNSW Canberra also unveiled the Australian National Concurrent Design Facility (ANCDF) for space missions on campus. Notably, this outcome is a result of collaboration between the university, the ACT government and the French space agency CNES, which provided the software tool.

Then, at the National Conversation on Space, convened at Mt Stromlo by the states and territories who are signatory to the space collaboration memorandum of understanding (MOU) (ACT, South Australia and the Northern Territory), Equatorial Launch Australia (ELA) announced the successful completion of their set-up phase through securing land tenure for their commercial microsatellite launch and recovery facility in the NT. 

This announcement brought into sharp focus the realistic prospect of end-to-end capability in satellite mission conceptualisation, design, build, test, launch, operation and recovery. This is particularly poignant given this week Australia commemorates the launch of our one and only large satellite, WRESAT, 50 years ago. In contrast, the next generation of space technologies, as demonstrated with the Buccaneer launch, ensures a pipeline of space engineering and operational activity to inspire the next generation.

The ADF planning and forecasting of the ADF capability requirements stimulates not just the commercial interest in defence-related space, but the civilian side as well. Both benefit from the activity and engagement by governments as the state and territory space MOU shows. The spotlight brought to bear on the Australian space sector by the International Astronautical Congress, held last month in Adelaide, was both timely and bright. The IAC created a focus and the federal government announced the formation of an Australian Space Agency.

An agency that facilitates commercial activity, creates an effective front door for engagement with Australia on space matters and provides cohesion and leadership to tell the story of Australia’s expanding contribution to space science, technology and opportunity will serve Australia and our next generation of STEM graduates well.

Buccaneer cube satellite a milestone for Australian industry
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